Budget deal comes just in time
Congress and the Obama administration barely beat the clock late Friday and averted a government shutdown, agreeing to a last-minute deal to cut at least $38.5 billion from federal spending.
WASHINGTON — Congress and the Obama administration barely beat the clock late Friday and averted a government shutdown, agreeing to a last-minute deal to cut at least $38.5 billion from federal spending.
President Obama hailed the deal, a bit more than an hour before a midnight EDT (9 p.m. PDT) deadline, as "the biggest annual spending cut in history," and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that during the next decade it would cut government spending by $500 billion.
"This is historic, what we've done," said the third man in the talks, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
They announced the agreement less than an hour before government funding was due to run out. The shutdown would have closed national parks, tax-season help lines and other popular services, though the military would have stayed on duty and other essential efforts such as air traffic control would have continued.
On side issues — "riders," the negotiators called them — the Democrats and the administration rebuffed numerous Republican attempts to curtail the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency and sidetracked a demand to deny federal funds to Planned Parenthood.
Anti-abortion lawmakers did succeed in winning a provision to ban the use of federal or local government funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia.
Vote planned next week
Congress will not vote on the deal, which would fund the government for the last six months of the fiscal year, until next week. In the meantime, negotiators agreed to a shorter-term stopgap spending plan to keep the government running through Thursday.
Racing to beat the deadline, lawmakers worked to pass the interim measure to keep the federal machinery running for the next several days. The Senate acted within minutes to pass it, and the House voted approval early Saturday.
GOP members of the House were briefed on the deal late Friday, and there was virtually no dissension. "It sounds like it's all it can be," said Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.
The developments came after Republicans and Democrats spent the day blaming one another for what would have been the first lapse in government services brought on by Congress in 15 years.
While both sides compromised, Republicans were able to force significant spending concessions from Democrats in exchange for putting to rest some of the vexing social-policy fights that had held up the agreement.
Friday was an all-day, all-evening frenzy of behind-the-scenes offers and counteroffers. Obama talked to Reid and Boehner during the day, but the two sides were stuck for hours on precisely how to cut spending and whether to cut federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The women's health organization, the nation's largest abortion provider, had become a prime Republican target.
For much of the day, Reid and Boehner even disagreed about what the disagreement was about.
Reid said there had been an agreement at a White House meeting Thursday night to cut spending by about $38 billion. He said Republicans also were demanding unspecified cuts in health services for lower-income women that were unacceptable to Democrats. "Republicans want to shut down our nation's government because they want to make it harder to get cancer screenings," he said. "They want to throw women under the bus."
Boehner said repeatedly that wasn't the case; it was spending cuts that divided two sides.
"Most of the policy issues have been dealt with, and the big fight is about spending," he said. "When will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting federal spending?"
By midday Friday, most federal employees had been told whether they had been deemed essential or would be temporarily laid off in the event of a shutdown.
Obama canceled a scheduled Friday trip to Indianapolis and a weekend family visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia and kept in touch with both Boehner and Reid.
The Planned Parenthood provision remained until it was dropped late Friday. In return, Republicans got more spending cuts.
Originally far apart
Democrats had wanted $33 billion in cuts; Republicans originally sought $61 billion and then trimmed their request to $40 billion.
Although Republican House members were elected in November on a "Pledge to America" to cut even more spending, they privately urged Republican leaders to take the deal.
A shutdown, many concluded, would be highly unpopular, a point that polls reinforced. And, Republicans contended, there would be other, more consequential budget fights throughout the year.
"Our goal is not to shut down the government," Boehner said. "Our goal is to cut spending."
Boehner met with House Republicans for about an hour Friday afternoon and stuck to spending issues. He got applause several times as he described his intention to keep fighting for big cuts. "It's about spending," said Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C. "That's what the speaker is focused on."
Reid and other Democrats protested that Republicans were being too obstinate by refusing for hours to budge on Planned Parenthood.
"For weeks we've been told that (this budget) is about cutting spending," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "Now at the eleventh hour, we find out what it's really about."
Material from The New York Times and The Associated Press is included in this report.
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
(The Associated Press) Fuel rules get support A Consumer Federation of America survey conducted in April found that a large majority of Americans R...
Post a comment