With just over an hour left before the government would have shut down, congressional leaders and the White House announced an agreement to fund the government for the rest of the year and a deal to keep the government functioning beyond the Friday midnight deadline. The agreement ends a long-running and frustrating legislative and political sideshow that threatened to bring the entire government to a halt. With minutes to go before a shutdown, all sides were declaring victory.
“I'm pleased to announce that the Washington monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business. That's because today Americans of different beliefs came together again,” President Obama said.
The announced agreement would cut $39 billion from current spending and allocate $513 billion for the defense budget covering the remainder of this fiscal year. The deal also included a GOP agreement to abandon controversial policy riders dealing with Planned Parenthood and the Environmental Protection Agency, and an agreement to pass a “bridge” continuing resolution to keep the government operating while the larger deal is drafted.
"We will in fact cut spending and keep our government open," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in announcing the deal just before 11 p.m.
On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., described the cuts involved as historic and the beginning of much “hard work” ahead to “get our fiscal house in order.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who sanguinely predicted a resolution of the budgetary troubles early in the day, said Republicans had a choice to repeat history by taking part in another government shutdown but chose instead “to make history” by negotiating the biggest discretionary cuts ever seen.
As part of the deal, the Senate will debate and vote on the GOP provision to defund Planned Parenthood, a measure sure to fail. But the promise of a full debate gives Republicans procedural cover that the issue will not die without a vote. A GOP spending bill passed by the House last year would have prohibited federal funds from going to the group. The final package will also include language restricting access to abortion in the District of Columbia.
"I would expect a final vote on this to occur mid-next week, but I do believe we'll have a ... bridge continuing resolution passed tonight," Boehner said. “"We fought to keep government spending down because it really will affect, and help create a better environment for, our job creators."
The $39 billion in cuts includes $3 billion in reductions to the Defense Department, which would still be $5 billion above the current fiscal year, said Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala.
A GOP leadership aide confirmed that as part of the final negotiations on a long-term continuing resolution, Democrats have agreed to attach a rider to the bill that provides for an annual audit of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created under the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul. Conservatives have opposed the creation of the CFPB as onerous. The audit will be conducted by the private sector in conjunction with the Government Accountability Office.
The deal ends weeks of heated and sometime frustrating negotiations that were constantly on the verge of collapse. The chaos of it all would have made a Founding Father either blush with pride or wretch in revulsion. With hours to go before the shutdown, the federal government lurched awkwardly toward a deal to keep the government open and impose the largest one-time cut ever in discretionary spending.
And through the Halls of Congress echoes of Howie Mandel’s popular TV show “Deal or No Deal” rang repetitively in the ears of lawmakers, lobbyists, reporters, bewildered tourists and legions of thunderstruck taxpayers wondering if this was the best American government could produce under pressure.
The first public confirmation of a deal rumored for hours came, appropriately enough, not through a floor speech or press conference, but through a Twitter message from Reid’s spokesman Jon Summers: “We have an agreement. Details/statement coming soon.”
In the end, the framers might well have considered the spectacle a prism through which to view the essentials of the government it bequeathed and the ludicrous wrangling of myopic political turf-minders. On the one hand, a legitimate and fundamental debate was occurring over governing – spending how much on what. On the other, numerous larger and more substantive issues of government were held hostage by a partisan cat fight over miniscule spending (viewed in the grand scheme of a $3.5 trillion budget) for women’s health care funding and the regulatory reach of the EPA.