Budget Deal Reached to Avert Shutdown; Vote Set Next Week After 6-Day ‘Bridge’
By MICHAEL D. SHEAR
Published: April 8, 2011
WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and President Obama headed off a shutdown of the government with just hours to spare Friday night under a tentative budget deal that would cut nearly $40 billion from current federal spending this year.
Times Topic: Government Shutdown — Federal Budget (2011)
After days of tense negotiations and partisan quarrelling, House Republicans came to preliminary terms with the White House and Senate Democrats over financing the government for the next six months, resolving a stubborn impasse that had threatened to disrupt federal operations across the country and around the globe.
Speaker John A. Boehner, who had pressed Democrats for cuts sought by members of the conservative new House majority, presented the package of widespread spending reductions and policy provisions and won a positive response from his rank and file shortly before 11 p.m. Both Democrats and Republicans proclaimed they had reached a deal and would begin the necessary steps to move the bill through Congress.
Democrats said that under the agreement, the budget measure would not include provisions sought by Republicans to limit environmental regulations and to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood and other groups that provide abortions.
“This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight,” Mr. Boehner said as he left the party meeting. “But we fought to keep government spending down because it really will in fact help create a better environment for job creators in our country.”
Speaking from the White House after the Republican meeting, President Obama said that both sides had to give ground in reaching the bargain and that some of the cuts that Democrats accepted “will be painful.”
“Programs people rely on will be cut back,” said Mr. Obama, who said Americans had to begin to live within their means. “Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed.”
In the closed door Republican session, according to people present in the room, Mr. Boehner described the plan as the best deal he could wring from Democrats and said the cuts — an estimate $39 billion in reductions — represented the “largest real dollar spending cut in American history.”
Although both sides compromised, Republicans were able to force significant spending concessions from Democrats in exchange from putting to rest some of the vexing social policy fights that had held up the agreement.
Due to the need to put the compromise hammered out at the highest levels over the past few days into legislative form, Congressional leaders prepared to move a stopgap measure through the House and Senate overnight to prevent any break in government financing. The actual compromise would be considered sometime next week.
The developments came after Republicans and Democrats spent the day blaming one another for what would be the first lapse in government services brought on by Congress in 15 years.
As the midnight deadline approached, efforts to finish a deal intensified, and Mr. Obama and Mr. Boehner spoke by telephone to try to find an agreement.
“Both sides are working hard to reach the kind of resolution Americans desire,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, who had consulted closely with Mr. Boehner on strategy during the fractious talks. “A resolution is actually within reach. The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus.”
Mr. McConnell’s optimism could not disguise the fact that time was steadily slipping away, and testy leaders of the two parties were pushing hard to shape public perceptions of who was responsible for an impasse that threatened to have serious political repercussions — and to presage even more consequential fiscal showdowns in the months ahead. Democrats said Republicans were insisting on overreaching policy provisions; Republicans said it remained about money.
After nightlong negotiations that ended before dawn on Friday yielded no agreement, Senator Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat and majority leader, went on the offensive. He told reporters and said on the Senate floor that Mr. Boehner, the Senate Democrats and Mr. Obama had essentially settled on $38 billion in cuts from current spending, a figure that represented a substantial concession for Democrats.
But he said that Republicans were refusing to abandon a policy provision that would withhold federal financing for family planning and other health services for poor women from Planned Parenthood and other providers.
“This is indefensible, and everyone should be outraged,” Mr. Reid said on the Senate floor. “The Republican House leadership have only a couple of hours to look in the mirror, snap out of it and realize how truly shameful they have been.”