11th hour miracle: Congress strikes budget deal with minutes to spare before a shutdown

By Sahil Kapur
Saturday, April 9, 2011 0:33 EDT
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Image: US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (L)
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WASHINGTON – With literally moments to spare before a shutdown Friday at midnight, the two parties struck a deal to fund the government through September. They agreed to cut spending $39 billion from 2010 levels and separately vote on controversial policy riders blocking funding for Planned Parenthood.

Congress also scrambled late Friday night to pass a short-term stopgap measure cutting the first $2 billion to buy time and keep the government open while the budget would be constructed. Shortly before midnight, the Senate approved the continuing resolution, and the House passed it soon after midnight.

In a joint statement, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) hailed the deal as an “historic” achievement.

“We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the President,” the two said.

Although a shutdown technically occurred at midnight, the stopgap bill included language to retroactively cover any consequences that may have transpired from the short lapse in funding.

President Barack Obama also praised the accord as a monumental breakthrough, announcing shortly before midnight that come Saturday morning, “the entire federal government will be open for business — and that’s because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.”

“In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform,” Obama said.

The deal reflected a victory for Republicans in extracting a level of spending cuts that once seemed out of the question. For Democrats, it was a relief in that they averted the inclusion of conservative ideological provisions that would have been embarrassing to defend to their base.

Leaders of both sides get to claim victory, but there are provisions in the accord to anger liberals and conservatives. For instance, it includes a mandatory audit of health care reform that could prove damaging to Democrats. Tea party conservatives are likely to be peeved that it falls below the GOP’s promise of $100 billion in spending cuts.

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