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The Policy Racket

Deal reached to avoid federal government shutdown

Image

Alex Brandon / AP

Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, speaks to the press with from left, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-Wash., and Rep. Judy Biggert, R-Ill., on Capitol Hill Friday, April 8, 2011. Perilously close to a midnight deadline, the White House and congressional leaders have reached agreement to cut billions of dollars in spending to avoid the first government shutdown in 15 years.

Updated Saturday, April 9, 2011 | 2:22 a.m.

Government shutdown averted

KSNV coverage of last-minute budget deal in Congress to avoid government shutdown, April 8, 2011.

KSNV: Budget Battle

KSNV coverage of the possible government shutdown with the Sun's Karoun Demirjian.

Click to enlarge photo

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid leaves the Senate floor on Capitol Hill after announcing an agreement to avoid a government shutdown Friday, April 8, 2011 in Washington.

It wasn’t all officially wrapped up until about 39 minutes after the midnight deadline, but Congress successfully averted a government shutdown in the waning hours of Friday night.

House and Senate leaders ended weeks of budget stalemate with a compromise representing the largest budget cut the country has seen.

The agreement slashes $78.5 billion off of the President’s fiscal 2011 request — $38.5 billion from current spending levels — starting with a prorated, six-day stopgap measure to keep the country running, minus about $2 billion, until Thursday, to give lawmakers time to ink the deal.

“It’s an agreement between Democrats and Republicans on behalf of all Americans that invests in our country while making the largest annual spending cut in our history,” President Barack Obama said minutes after the deal was announced.

He called it a “worthwhile compromise” that would nonetheless include “cuts that will be painful.”

“But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect investments we need,” Obama said. “At the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts not social issues like women’s health and protecting our air and water.”

The familiar battle of politics vs. policy seemed all but certain to derail negotiations earlier Friday as Democrats and Republicans traded barbs. Each side accused the other of pitching the country closer to a government shutdown by not getting what the negotiations were supposed to be about.

“There is only one reason we don’t have an agreement as yet, and that reason is spending,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Friday morning. “We are close to a resolution on the policy issues, but I think the American people deserve to know when will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”

Democrats countered that it wasn’t about spending — that they’d even agreed to a number — but about Republican insistence on policy riders, especially one: de-funding Title X based women’s health services.

The services include those provided through Planned Parenthood clinics, which provide abortion services, even though 97 percent of the work they do is related to women’s preventative health.

The issue, nonetheless, became red meat for anti-abortion Republicans and increased Democrats’ frustration.

“They are willing to throw women under the bus, even if it means they’ll shut down the government,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday morning. “With a government shutdown looming not weeks away or days away but just hours away, why are we talking about whether women can keep getting something as simple and as non-controversial as cancer screenings?”

But by late Friday, insults and accusations had turned into commendations on a compromise well done, with the realization that even with this bill nearly completed, budget problems are far from over.

“We fought to keep government spending down, because it really will affect and help the environment for job creators in our country,” Boehner said.

“We didn’t do it at this late hour for drama. We did it because it’s been a very hard process to arrive at this point,” Reid said, thanking Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for their efforts. “This is historic what we’ve done. But we have a lot of work to do.”

That includes what lies ahead as appropriators and leaders officially ink a deal Congress can approve.

So far, Congress’ support for the first stage of the agreement — the short-term funding measure that dips about $2 billion below present thresholds — was overwhelming, despite several die-hard Republican Tea Party affiliates and even more professedly liberal Democrats’ refusal to vote for the agreement in the House, where the count was 348-70.

As things unfold, more might fall away.

Nevada’s full delegation voted in favor of the stopgap measure Friday night or, in the case of Nevada Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who had warned Democratic leadership she would be out of town honoring a family commitment Friday night, would have, she said.

Sen. Reid and John Ensign, R-Nev., cast their positive votes by inclusion in the unanimous consent agreement to approve the bill in the Senate.

But at least one member didn’t sound too optimistic about the final deal.

Click to enlarge photo

President Obama poses for photographers in the Blue Room at the White House in Washington after he spoke regarding the budget and averted government shutdown after a deal was made between Republican and Democrat lawmakers, Friday, April 8, 2011.

“I am pleased that this short-term measure was made so our troops will continue to receive their pay checks,” said Nevada Rep. Dean Heller said in a statement. “In the next few days I plan to closely examine budget deal.”

That’s not exactly the tone the other Republican members of the Nevada delegation struck.

“What we’ve got is a deal in concept that still needs to be drafted...but that will hopefully pass with a supermajority,” Nevada Republican Rep. Joe Heck said. “I’m pleased that we finally got it done and that we won’t be shutting down the government. We’re reducing spending by historic amounts...We can turn our attention to the fiscal year 2012 budget, where the cuts will be measures in trillions, not billions.”

Ensign said that “in the eleventh hour, partisan politics were set aside for the good of the country. However, even with what appears to be an acceptable budget deal, a lot remains to be done to get our fiscal house in order.”

If it seems like their tone on the conclusion of the agreement diverged, it should be noted that so was their approach to one.

Heck and Ensign had both sided with House Republican leadership on approving a three-week continuing resolution in mid-March that Heller rejected. Heck and Ensign also each called on their Republican counterparts to drop any insistence on policy riders in the hours and days before the deal was finally struck.

Democrats, it appears, eventually won the most ground on those riders, meaning most are not part of the final deal.

Efforts to remove the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to set climate-change rules and keep money away from National Public Radio were abandoned during the negotiations, according to a senior Democratic aide.

Title X funding remains untouched as well. But that came at a bartering cost. To preserve Title X funding, Obama had to toss the Republicans the offer of preventing local tax revenues in Washington, D.C., from being used for abortions in the District.

“It was D.C. abortion and Title X, and he said, ‘John, I will give you D.C. abortion,’” a senior Democratic aide said of the president’s actions in the Oval Office Thursday night.

When Boehner tried to engage Obama on cutting Title X funding, the president simply said, “Nope, zero. John, this is it,” according to the senior Democratic aide.

Abortion is only one of the areas where Washington, D.C., it appears, became the horse trade for the rest of the nation.

The president also relinquished Capitol ground to Boehner on the issue of school vouchers, of which Republicans have been a strong champion.

“I think the Republicans used the riders very effectively to get what they wanted,” said Berkley, who applauded the final agreement, even though she said that Democrats met the Republicans “far more than halfway.”

Berkley said she would have voted for the deal if she had been in town, and absent any major surprises on content, she expects to vote for the full legislation.

“Using the family planning issue to hold up the negotiations that could have ultimately ended in closing the government is ridiculous. I hope they don’t continue to use this,” she said.

The cuts the House and Senate agreed to late Friday night will include reductions across all agencies, including the Department of Defense, which is coming in at about $2 billion less than House Republican leaders envisioned things in their budget bill, H.R. 1.

A senior aide also seemed to think that there could be some difficulty down the line around transportation funding, where negotiators stripped $2.5 billion of federal money that had been authorized by the committee but not yet obligated or spent.

But for now, both sides are claiming a political victory and pledging to look ahead to fiscal 2012, where, judging from the difference in budget proposals already out there for public consumption, far more political pitfalls await.

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  1. I applaud the people involved in reaching this decision.

    But I am horrified at how an easy process was made so difficult and taken to the very brink of destroying America.

    I hold the Republican members in Congress responsible.

    Because money was not the issue. Social issues went to the forefront and the Republicans caused this whole debacle to progress all the way up until the eleventh hour.

    I don't want to hear this crap of, oh, the Tea Party caucus wanted this, the regular Republicans wanted this, ad infinitum. They all ran as Republicans. They all campaigned as Republicans. They all won as Republicans. Because Speaker Boehner can't control his majority is not an excuse.

    Let's go back in recent history. Republicans ran on a platform of jobs, jobs, jobs, employment, jobs, jobs, jobs.

    But ever since they took over the majority, they have done stupid stuff like read the Constitution, name bullfrogs as the Congress animal, name buildings, attack social programs, try to take charge of every single women's fetus in the entire United States, destroy the Affordable Care Act and now it's culminated attacks on more social programs mired into the budget issue in order to get some kind of cheap victory. Only when they were called out for their idiocy is when we had an agreement reached on a budget. The incredible idiocy of them attacking Planned Parenthood is that it was a program created in the 1970s by a Republican President.

    I guarantee THIS kind of crap is going to be faced on even the most simple legislation from now on. This is the complete lunacy of the Republicans nowadays. Because the Republican Party in the Congress is a bunch of rabble, unable to be controlled by anyone, even their own caucus.

    To prove my point, even after this agreement was reached, the Tea Party has basically say they disagreed and they intend to primary Speaker Boehner in retaliation for selling out.

    I have a solution.

    In 2012, we start to slap Republicans out of power wherever we can by an overwhelming amount of votes.

    Because THEY are the problem. Don't matter if they are Tea Party brand ones, regular moderates, far right extreme ones and/or whatever the heck other type of idiotic Republicans they are.

    Republicans, as they are comprised, no matter what affiliation they are, are the problem.

    They are like a cancer.

    And they need to ALL be removed.

  2. Thank you, GOP, for handing President Obama a HUGE and HISTORIC victory!

    The President can now go on the campaign trail and celebrate the largest cut in year-over-year federal spending in U.S. history... all on his watch.

    Thanks, GOP!

    Meanwhile, there are whispers of a primary challenge to Speaker Boehner. Boehner promised the teabaggers $100 billion in cuts and wound up tens-of-billions of dollars short! The leader of the tea party nation has already called for the challenge.

    Thanks, GOP!

    And while the GOP spent 2.2 billion dollars on Planned Parenthood from 2001-2006, they're going to lose the so-called values voters since they couldn't even cut a couple hundred million in funding to Planned Parenthood.

    Thanks, GOP!

    Meanwhile, polling of independents opinions of the tea party have seen a massive swing to the negative!

    Thanks, GOP!

  3. "Democrats won the day on the subject of policy riders: efforts to strip Title X funding, which became the fight over de-funding Planned Parenthood, are not in the final agreement. Neither are any other efforts to de-fund the health care laws, or curtail the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to regulate climate change and greenhouse gases."

    THANK GOD!

  4. "The budget deal is a total surrender by a gutless Speaker. Those who vote for it deserve a primary!!!"
    -Dick Morris

  5. All you need to know about John Boner is that he is there with Virginia Foxx, who would be declared the craziest person in the House if Steve King and Michelle Bachmann disappeared.

  6. $7 Trillion National Debt from George W. Bush alone and now the Tea Party speaks up? What a joke.

  7. What a joke, 3 trillion budget, 40 billion is cuts. Talk about both parties screwing over America, republicans caved to liberals. The social programs need to be cut by trillions and we'd start to see America heal. It is the liberal programs that have and will continue to desecrate America into a human cesspool of free loading no good for nothing lazy pathetic social degenerates sucking from a system that is clearly broken and designed to keep the liberal voting pool around.

    It's sad when normal people really sit back and look at what America has become and what we spend money on. The liberals have designed a system that says to their mindless trolls, why work when the system is enabling their mindless trolls not to work and rewards their minions for some of the sickest immoral behavioral types one could imagine. Sit back and look at what has occurred and what they're fighting to keep alive and well and this is what liberals are proud of, disgusting.

    Planned Parenthood, abortions are done as a form of birth control, this is sick.

    Killers, Rapists, and all other forms of illegal or illicit activities are praised and the one who committed isn't at fault, it's always somebody else's fault or something or somebody in their life made them do it,

    Kids of the last 15 years are rewarded for not learning let alone held accountable for not achieving the simplest grade, "C".

    Racial divide, Americans are no longer American, they are classified by ethnic background and gender and then provided freebies and blame the "White" person for their shortcomings and lack of being held accountable for not learning or being lazy.

    Male/Male -- Female/Female sexual relations and marriage is the preferred liberal lifestyle of choice and they're proud of it.

    The government is smarter than the people, if the government doesn't tell them what or when do something most are dazed and confused. When speaking to them its likes speaking to doorknob.

    The liberal sickest of the sick lifestyle list goes on and on and those of us who choose to work outside the system and not suck off the taxpayer dollars are sick of what you liberals have done and fighting to keep around. I can say that the working people who don't work for some program or system designed by liberals are going to take back what you're destroying, America.

    We're going to cut a few trillion from your programs where you mindless trolls will be forced into working and becoming productive members of society and not work for the system. Taxpayers are sick of you and we're sick of liberals desecrating America into the human cesspool of social degenerates sucking off the system and your programs.

  8. The Democrats, including Harry Reid and Obama, have reached a new low. Their using the military personnel as political pawns is disgusting.

    Kudos to the GOP for accepting fewer budget cuts than they wanted in order to keep our military funded.

    It's no surprise that the liberals, in their twisted way of thinking, are finding ways to blame this mess on the GOP when it is actually the result of the Democrats' FAILURE TO DO THEIR JOB LAST YEAR!

  9. "Sucking Off the Taxpayer Dollars" - isn't that what gambling was designed to do in the first place? Suck taxes off the looser tourist's gambling habits to pay for Nevada State expenses because Nevadans didn't want to pay themselves?

    Taxing gambling as the way to pay for State expenses is that "sick liberal lifestyle" that the hardcore Tea Party say they are against but actually support wholeheartedly. Prostitution is also liberal lifestyle that the Tea Party supports incognito.

    The conservative crowd supports personal responsibility until it comes to paying taxes themselves to support the Government services, and then taxes become another person's responsibility. What a Joke.

  10. "ColinFromLasVegas"' post shows he is in favor of the continued destruction of our economy and, therefore, the destruction of America. All who can't accept drastic budget cuts are not in favor of saving our nation.

    "SunJon" needs to be informed that the Tea Party was formed AFTER BUSH and in response to Obamanomics.

    A question for "dipstick": Why is killing a pregnant woman a double murder but an abortion is not a murder?

    To "its2hot": I'm glad to see you get it. In your post, you depict what's wrong with America and the folks I mentioned above are part of the problem. Let's remember that the sins of the "Old GOP" are in the process of being wiped clean by the "NEW GOP" with the TPM (Tea Party Movement) as the impetus of change. The libs are running scared now and therefore are very confrontational like cornered javelina pigs because they know the days of their Marxist-progressive tyrannical dominance are numbered. The 2012 budget is going to separate the libs from the conservatives, BIG TIME!

  11. Make no mistake, the Republicans plan is to make the President look so bad they are hoping to weaken his popularity. But the real truth is, they hate to see such an intelligent BLACK man become the most powerful man in the World running this Country. These people have gone blind with their hatred toward our President. One way or another their intention is to take him out of office, something that will never happen, they may stay blind Forever............

  12. What we have is a combined group of pathetic failures in BOTH parties. Its no longer Republicon or Democrat.

    With the Republicons it's about social programs, & their cost, things like feeding the poor, keeping them warm, keeping them alive. The GOP is the party of die fast, you cost too damn much. Its the death panel party, similar to the one Sarah Show Pony lied about. The Republicons are a cancer on America, a cult.

    The Democrats have NO SPINE. Whispering Harry Reid is their leader, a guy missing his own spine. Harry thinks prostitution is why business doesn't come to Nevada. Shows how much stuff he has on the shelf. He's weak & nearly lost last Nov. to a loon.

    Many thought Obama was a Democrat until sold out & extended the Governor Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. He slept through the insurance debate selling out to BIG Insurance. A purported Democrat morphed into what he really is, a moderate Republicon and the result shows.

    While two groups of incompetents play kid games the country spins in the vortex of the toilet bowl. A budget could have been hammered out long ago but too many from both parties don't play well together so in the end combine to become the Imbecile Party.

    Had Obama done the job he promised voters in Nov 2010 would have returned to support him. He failed & people either didn't vote, or hit their heads causing them to go Tea Bagger. A group of pathetic people known for voting against their own best interests. The result shows in Wis, Ohio, Michigan, among others. You elected the Karl Rove Party, The Koch Brothers Party. The war profitter party. Didn't see us gettin out of the costly wars, or see cuts at the Pentagon did ya?

    Politicians fail at the real issues since its those behind those issues who shower them with cash through bribes & campaign "contributions". Together our government is for sale. Our Supreme Court 5 was paid off like a cheap hooker.

    A lack of revenue causes this, not social programs, pensions or unions. Its the corporations owning our politicians. We allow our jobs to be shipped to foreign lands with no revenue from the unemployed. The wealthy are not taxed at a high enough rate, & we allow Exxon Mobil, GE, Bank of America to pay NO taxes & then receive a refund because our politicians are wholly owned by these corporations. They won't reform the tax code or close the loopholes. We lose billions if not trillions each year because our political parties, BOTH of them represent BIG business instead of us.

    We need to stop pointing fingers at each other. We must demand these people work for us, NOT the friggin corporations. Turn off Dancing with the Stars, American Idol & get with it before we all end up broke, homeless, or in another civil war because were headed back to the 1800's, Republcons & Donkeycrats TOGETHER if we don't.

  13. We conservatives don't hate Mohammar Qaddafi's son, Obama. (Qaddafi called him that, not me) We just hate his policies and his Marxist agenda.

    We would favor Herman Cain, J.C. Watts or Allen West for President. They are all black men of integrity.

  14. From Karen Garcia:

    "And now we have another down-to-the-wire save, passage of a budget nobody even had the chance to read before voting. And it is merely a stop-gap "bridge" cure, a massive kick-the-can down the road for another week. At the rate we're going, we won't have a real budget till it's time to vote for next year's. And these hard-right fundamentalists who seem to have a spooky sway over the Democrats who outnumber them aren't going away. The Democrats are rapidly becoming superfluous in this whole mess we call a government. The Culture Wars have joined the Class War in what increasingly appears to be a descent into fascism."