EVEN REPUBLICANS START TO BALK AT A CULTURE-WAR SHUTDOWN…. Perhaps the biggest political danger for congressional Republicans isn’t just shutting down the government, it’s shutting down the government for a ridiculous reason that the American mainstream will find absurd.

One of the major sticking points in negotiations remains the GOP demand to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Talk of this being about abortion isn’t quite right — Planned Parenthood is already prohibited from using public funds to terminate pregnancies, and has been for many years. What we’re talking about here is Republicans balking at access to contraception, family planning services, pap smears, and cancer screenings.

All of a sudden, a few conservative Republicans are saying this just isn’t worth shutting the government down over.

Republicans should “move on” from insisting on defunding Planned Parenthood in a 2011 spending bill, a Republican senator said Friday.

With less than 24 hours to go until a shutdown, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) suggested that a rider to defund Planned Parenthood, a key sticking point in reaching an agreement, was expendable.

“[We] just need to recognize,” Toomey said on MSNBC. “We should aggressively go for everything we can get and move on.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) — who like Toomey, strongly opposes abortion rights — has also urged House Republicans to drop the Planned Parenthood rider.

Last night on CNN, even Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), one of Congress’ most strident opponents of abortion rights, was asked whether it makes sense to give up the culture-war riders. Remarkably, Bachmann said she supports having “a clean bill.”

This isn’t what House GOP leaders were hoping for at this stage in the process. Democrats spent much of yesterday arguing that Republicans would rather fight over hot-button social issues than keep the government running. These remarks from Toomey, Coburn, and Bachmann — not a moderate in the bunch — only help reinforce the accuracy of the Democratic message.

It’s up to Speaker Boehner and his caucus to see the writing on the wall here. A great deal hangs in the balance.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.