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Utah delegation frustrated as they wait on budget decision

Published: Friday, April 8 2011 3:46 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — With a government shutdown looming, Utah’s congressional delegation says they are as frustrated as their constituents at home.

“No one has a clue what’s going on right now,” said Rep. Rob Bishop, a Republican from Utah’s 1st Congressional District.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” added Rep. Jim Matheson, Utah’s lone Democrat representing Utah's 2nd district.  “I’m incredibly frustrated, as are the people of Utah. I expect people in Washington to behave better than this.”

The stalemate continues this afternoon as pressure mounts on Congressional leaders work resolve the impasse by a midnight deadline to prevent the federal government from shutting down.   

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said $78 billion in cuts was agreed to in a meeting with the President Barack Obama Thursday night.  

Today, Sen. Mike Lee, a freshman Republican from Utah, said he had information that the cuts were more in the neighborhood of $38-$39 billion dollars. “But that’s just a rumor,” Lee said.

Talks also centered on funding for Planned Parenthood, one of the issues where House Republicans dug in their heels during negotiations.

Today, Utah's senior Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican, denied it was an effort to halt abortions, although he federal funding for abortions is illegal anyway.   

“With regard to Planned Parenthood, look we’ve got to start cutting back,” Hatch said.  “And why would we give $350 million a year to Planned Parenthood, over 10 years $3.5 billion dollars, when we can’t afford it?”

While Lee, like Hatch, champions a balanced budget amendment and curtailing federal spending, he doesn’t like the prospect of a government shutdown, either.

“It could be a really big deal, or it could be not a very big deal,” he said. “We don’t know exactly how big a deal it is until it happens. That’s one of the reasons we want to avoid it.”

Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz, from Utah's 3rd Congressional District, is among those who want to make a statement about the larger problem now. “Until we seriously tackle our debt and deficit, I’m going to have a hard time voting for anything unless it seriously curbs spending,” Chaffetz said.

Likewise, Bishop is predicting more tough times ahead for Congress, as lawmakers tack on a national debt at $14 trillion.

“This isn’t the only fight that’s going to happen this year,” Bishop said. “There’s still a budget issue that deals with the debt limit, the new budget that we still have to bring forward. These fights are going to come up again, this is just one of those skirmishes.”

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