Saturday, April 9, 2011

Open For Business

They brought us right to the edge, but with less than an hour to go, the Republicans and the Democrats worked out a budget deal, and the government did not shut down at midnight last night.

Congressional leaders agreed late Friday to a compromise that will keep the federal government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year — averting a government shutdown less than an hour before it was set to start.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the deal just before 11 p.m. The agreement came together in a few frantic hours at the near-deserted Capitol, with a midnight deadline looming.

“I’m pleased that Senator Reid and I and the White House have been able to come to an agreement that will, in fact, cut spending and keep our government open,” Boehner said at an impromptu news conference, mentioning Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).

Shortly after, President Obama read a statement from the White House, pointing out that the Washington Monument, seen lit up over his shoulder, would be open as usual on Saturday.

“Today, Americans of different beliefs came together,” Obama said. He said the cuts would be painful but necessary to maintain the country’s fiscal health. “We protected the investments we need to win the future.”

To keep the government running through Friday, lawmakers approved a short-term spending measure overnight — the Senate at 12:20 a.m. and the House at 12:40 a.m. — and said the final agreement should be approved next week.

If that happens, the measure would cut $37.8 billion from the federal budget through the end of September, congressional aides said.

I’m going to leave it to the pros to decide who won or lost. The Republicans did not get their defunding of Planned Parenthood, nor did they get the $61 billion in cuts, but the Democrats did not get the campaign issue of blaming the Republicans, and once again, as they did with the Bush tax cuts, they gave up ground on funding. In the end both sides walked away with a deal they’re not wild about but can live with, and that is the how things work when you negotiate. Hardliners on both sides are not happy, but a shutdown for the sake of political points — which is what it would have been all about — wouldn’t have accomplished anything more than just make things worse for everybody.