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Mikulski fights Planned Parenthood budget provision

Vowing to "punch back" against attempts to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski accused the GOP of playing politics by attaching the controversial provision to a stop-gap budget measure needed to avoid a government shutdown this weekend.

Lawmakers in Washington appeared to be making progress toward an agreement that would keep the government afloat while cutting federal spending by $38 billion, but Democrats accused Republicans of jeopardizing the momentum with a handful of "policy riders" that dredged up longstanding debates over abortion and environmental protection regulations.

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"We're talking about the 'a' word," the Maryland Democrat said, referring to "abortion" but, she added, "I want to talk about the 'j' word," she said, meaning "jobs." Speaking at a press conference on Capitol Hill with other Democratic female senators, Mikulski accused Republicans of changing "the topic from jobs, since they didn't know how to do it."

Mikulski is the Senate's most senior female member.

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Republicans, meanwhile, rejected the characterization that the budget battle had shifted to social issues. "There's only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending," Republican House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement. "We are close to a resolution on the policy issues."

Planned Parenthood provides abortion assistance. Democrats note it provides other women's health services, too.

Behind-the-scenes negotiations continued Friday as the clock ticked toward midnight's deadline to resolve the impasse or face a shutdown that would close federal agencies and furlough as many as 800,000 federal employees nationwide.

Despite making progress on some of the fiscal issues, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer told The Sun in an interview Friday that it is hard to be optimistic for a final agreement. "In effect, they're holding the government hostage," the Maryland Democrat said of Republicans. "The ransom being exactly what they ask for."

State and local officials, meanwhile, continued as best they could to prepare for a shutdown. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake called an afternoon meeting with city agency leaders to discuss the potential impact.


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