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Updated: 4:07 p.m.
Seizing on the looming government shutdown, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is attacking a handful of GOP Senate candidates it blames for clogging budget negotiations with an “extreme social agenda.”
In a statement set for release later Friday, DSCC spokesman Matt Canter charges that Republican policy riders with limited budget impact, such as a provision to block federal funding from Planned Parenthood, could derail the negotiations. The DSCC specifically calls out “establishment Republican Senate candidates” Rep. Dean Heller (Nev.), Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.), Rep. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Rep. Todd Akin (Mo.), and Rep. Denny Rehberg (Mont.), for “supporting their leadership and insisting on cuts to women's health care.”
“Republicans are trying to force a government shutdown in order to defund women’s health care services,” Canter said. “Republicans admit that these issues are still holding up a deal. Republicans are so against funding for women's health that they would shut down the federal government over it.”
Some Republicans, including Flake, insist that the snag is confined to the overall size of budget cuts, not the Planned Parenthood fight.
Speaking on MSNBC Friday morning, Flake said he was confident that negotiators would agree on Planned Parenthood language that was agreeable to both sides. But when pressed, he acknowledged that the disagreement over the size of the cuts amounted to a few billion dollars, or less than 1 percent of the overall budget.
“This is no longer about fiscal issues. This is no longer about jobs,” Canter said. “It is the same old Republican social agenda. Republicans are holding America hostage, and voters will hold them accountable.”
National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Joanna Burgos seized on the DSCC’s latest attack as evidence that Democrats are “exploiting our financial crisis and using it for political gain.”
Republicans, she said, “are addressing it as an American challenge that calls for placing our nation and our economy ahead of partisanship. [Democrats] are trying to deceive Americans when it’s obvious that we’re in this position because Democrats failed to pass a budget last year and now refuse to wane off of their spending and borrowing addiction.”
And while the NRCC is critical of Democrats’ push to politicize the potential shutdown — particularly relative to fundraising — it appears that Burgos’ colleagues at the National Republican Senatorial Committee used the issue to help score political points the day before.
In a Thursday statement that went out to media in the home states of vulnerable incumbents like Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D-Missouri), NRSC spokesman Chris Bond asked whether the Democratic Senators will “stand with liberal Harry Reid and shut down the government while blocking funding for troops.”
“Senator McCaskill’s constituents in Missouri deserve to know – will she once again stand with the liberal wing of her party, or will she support this effort to keep the government open and fund our men and women in uniform?” Bond said.