Abortion at Issue in Debate Over Budget

Showdown averted but top reps. unsure if they'll vote for deal.

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2011— -- In a fiery and rancorous debate, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., insisted that the other side was to blame for the near-shutdown of the federal government and battled over the funding of Planned Parenthood. One issue they could agree on: neither knew how they would vote on the budget compromise hammered out late Friday night.

"Look, these guys took us to the brink not only to do something that won't create a job, but to impose their own sorta right-wing policies on the country," Van Hollen said, sitting next to Pence who shook his head. "We can disagree about a very controversial issue, and we do, but using this budget process to try and impose that position on the country and threaten to shut down the government is just wrong."

Pence hit back: "It's nonsense to say that Republicans were willing to shut down the government over this. Speaker John Boehner made it clear that the policy issues, including my amendment on abortion providers had been negotiated."

"What was clear here" Pence said, "is that this administration and liberals in Congress were willing to shut the government down to continue to fund abortion providers in this country. And that's the bottom line."

The Republican went on to explain his view. "I'm pro-life. I don't apologize for it. I also think it's morally wrong to take the tax dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use it to fund abortion."

Amanpour injected. "But you know that federal funds don't do that," she said.

"In February of this year," Pence said, "the Pence Amendment passed on a bipartisan basis of 240 votes. It denied federal funding to Planned Parenthood of America."

Van Hollen began to grow impatient and the discussion heated up.

"Let me share with you, though, this fact: Planned Parenthood clinics focus mainly --"

Van Hollen tried to interrupt. "If I may --"

"Chris," Pence said with his voice raised trying to finish his thought. "Focus mainly on abortion. In 2009, Planned Parenthood performed -- "

Van Hollen tried to interrupt again: "Mike, you've had a lot of time on this issue."

Pence plowed through his talking point: "977 adoptions, 7,000 pre-natal [sic], 332,000 abortions."

Van Hollen, now appearing a bit riled up himself, insisted, "the facts are not one penny of taxpayer money goes to Planned Parenthood or anybody else for abortion."

Government Budget Vote: Pence Leaning Towards No

Earlier in the program, Pence and Van Hollen both refused to take a definitive position on whether they would vote for the budget compromise.

"Will you vote for this deal?" Amanpour asked.

Pence sidestepped the question. "I've been battling runaway federal spending under both political parties ever since I arrived in Congress. And I, for one, want to celebrate the fact that we are now debating on Capitol Hill –"

Amanpour pressed a second time. "Will you celebrate with your vote?"

"Well," Pence said, continuing his earlier thought, "less spending instead of more spending. What I was saying repeatedly, was that House Republicans needed to pick a fight. And I think John Boehner fought the good fight, I think he drove a hard bargain here. I want to see the details, but from what I know, it sounds like John Boehner got a good deal, probably not good enough for me to support it, but a good deal nonetheless."

Amanpour tried to pin him down. "You won't support it?" she asked.

"Well, look," he said, "this country's in trouble. We were asking for a two percent cut in the budget and that ended up being too much of a cut for this administration and for liberals in Congress."

Did Boehner fold too early?

Pence demurred, using a sports analogy to explain his reticence to complain. "I cannot bring myself to be critical of a basketball player that gets 2-on-1 all night. I cannot bring myself to be critical of John Boehner who squared off against the White House and liberals in Congress who couldn't accept a two percent budget cut and who dug in and were willing to shut down the government to continue to send a million dollars a day to the largest abortion provider in America."

Van Hollen also declined to say whether he would vote for the budget compromise, telling Amanpour he would wait until the details of the bill were finalized. But he said he did think the compromise would pass.