Congress late Friday narrowly averted a government shutdown after Democrats and Republicans agreed to cut $39 billion in spending over the next six months.
As part of the deal struck by Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and the White House, Congress shortly before midnight passed a seven day stop-gap spending bill, which itself includes $2 billion in funding reductions.
The Senate approved the measure by voice vote, then about an hour later the House voted 348-70 to pass it, as well.
In a joint statement, Reid and Boehner hailed the agreement.
“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. We will cut $78.5 billion below the president’s 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders,” they said.
“In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running ... That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings,” the two leaders added.
Likewise, President Barack Obama lauded the deal. “Tomorrow I’m pleased to announce that the Washington monument as well as the entire federal government, will remain open,” Obama said. Obama said he was able to protect investments in the future, but said the nation needs to start living within its means. “Today we acted on behalf of our children’s future.”
The agreement included significant concessions from both sides.
How much ground Democrats lost on spending grew increasingly clear as Boehner not only forced billions in cuts but shifted the entire debate away from the traditional fight over how much to spend and into a fight over how much to cut.
The philosophical shift is significant: with the 2012 budget battle already on their doorstep, Democrats are likely to find themselves on unfamiliar footing for the remainder of the 112th Congress.
More practically, Democrats had hoped to keep the reductions far lower than the $39 billion they ended up accepting. But after Republicans were able to force a series of short-term spending measures worth $10 billion in cuts on them, Democrats clearly realized deep reductions were coming one way or another.
But even after Reid and Obama offered to cut $33 billion in spending — more than half of what the House had originally passed and $2 billion more than Boehner’s original proposal — the Ohio Republican continued to squeeze Democrats for even further reductions.
After his chamber had agreed to the bill by voice vote, a clearly tired Reid acknowledged that, “I don’t think happy’s the right word. I’m satisfied. We did some hard work. It was a tough negotiation.”
For Republicans, perhaps the biggest loss came on the issue of policy riders. The House GOP, particularly its conservative wing, had for weeks demanded that any deal include dozens of controversial policy riders including abortion provisions, limits on the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse emissions and even provisions dealing with certain types of coal mining. In the end, the final deal included a school voucher program in the District of Columbia, and a prohibition on the city from using federal or local money to pay for abortions
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.