Huffpost Politics

Government Shutdown: Last-Minute Budget Deal Brings Relief, Disgust

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WASHINGTON — A collective sense of relief resonated across the nation Saturday, now that a federal government shutdown is merely a thought of what could have been.


Thousands of tourists poured into the Smithsonian museums in Washington – which would have been shuttered without Friday's late-night budget deal – to see artifacts like the original "Star-Spangled Banner" flag. And military families won't have to stock their freezers, not knowing when they might have another paycheck to put food on the table.

The only thing that rivals their comfort? Widespread disgust, knowing that political bickering made them cringe in the first place.

Matthew Molina, 24, of Alexandria, Va., recently was discharged from the Marines after serving in Iraq. Now he's working to get a job as a police officer or work for a federal agency. He worried a government shutdown would make his job search that much harder.

"After being in the military, you just kind of lose the faith in politics because no matter what you do, getting paid or not paid, you've still got to go to work," he said, standing along the route for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade in the nation's capital. "I've seen teenagers make better decisions out in a war than politicians are doing over here."

Molina and his wife, Kayleigh Prime, kept an eye on news of the budget stalemate all week because Prime's brother is still fighting with an Army unit in Afghanistan and didn't know how he could handle his bills back home if paychecks were delayed.

They joined thousands for the Cherry Blossom parade, which was threatened with cancellation earlier in the week because the parade route crosses partly into federal territory. There were smiles and big cheers for high school marching bands from Alabama, New York and Georgia who made the trip to perform amid talk of canceling the parade and shutting down the city's top attractions.

Even President Barack Obama visited the Lincoln Memorial, shaking hands with tourists after the long night of negotiations.

Tracy Hickey, a school speech therapist from South Bend, Ind., brought her husband and two children to Washington for a long-planned vacation to see the monuments, museums and parade.

"That's why you come here is to see all of these amazing, historic buildings – to not have been able to do that would have been devastating," she said. "They need to get their acts together and get stuff done."

Weeks of political gridlock had people on edge across the country and bracing for the worst. Democrats and Republicans had spent days hashing out the zero-hour deal that was reached late Friday, leaving many wondering how a federal government shutdown would affect them.

Jill Hornick of Crete, Ill., said she was notified Friday morning she would still report to work Monday at her Social Security Administration office in Chicago Heights.

"Utterly ridiculous," the 45-year-old federal worker said of her reaction to news that the shutdown had been averted. "I don't really think they understand how hard it is out there for people, and how important government services are as a safety net."

Rebecca Duncan, the wife of a Navy sailor stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, started saving money nearly a month ago by cutting trips to restaurants and movies. The 37-year-old mother of three stocked up on food – items that could be frozen in case the family had to do without a paycheck.

Had a shutdown occurred, military service members would have gotten half a paycheck next week and then not been paid until the standoff was settled.

"When I got home and saw it on Facebook, I let out a little cheer. My tension headache went away," Duncan said.

April Woods, the wife of a soldier based at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee-Kentucky line, said she thought her husband's job in the Army would provide better stability during tough economic times. She wasn't so sure after the budget showdown.

"When you hear about everyone getting laid off, your first thought when you are a military person is, 'Oh, I am never going to get laid off. The military is always going to need me.' This has made me feel like maybe they don't. Maybe they don't care."

Unlike the last government shutdown in 1995, this budget deadline came during a peak season for trips to national parks and historic sites.

Andrea Rennig, a den leader for a Cub Scout pack in Center Valley, Pa., said she was with a group of 55 adults and children that had been planning a trip to Philadelphia for months and "were coming no matter what." But she went to bed Friday not knowing if they'd get to see the two biggest stops on their agenda – Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, both overseen by the National Park Service. Rennig woke up early Saturday to good news.

"Everyone was a little nervous that we wouldn't be able to get in to see the Liberty Bell," Rennig said. "I was really relieved."

In South Dakota, the granite faces of Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt gazed out over visitors to Mount Rushmore as usual Saturday. The National Park Service had planned to close the memorial and furlough employees other than a skeleton crew.

In San Francisco, the lines were long Saturday as tourists waited under sunny skies to board cruise ships to Alcatraz Island. Many visitors had no idea the former prison was managed by the National Park Service.

Ben Koerner, of Gilbert, Ariz., was in the city to celebrate his 10th wedding anniversary. He and his wife, Julie, said they would've have been disappointed because they booked their tickets for Alcatraz two months ago.

Politicians called the budget showdown historic, but it wasn't the kind of history 7-year-old Charlie Giambrone of Erie, Pa., was looking for during a visit to the nation's capital. Charlie was glued to the news coverage Friday to find out if he could still visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, said Charlie's father, Chuck Giambrone.

On Saturday morning, Charlie posted a Facebook update for people back home. "I helped with the budget so I could come today," he wrote.

Then they took two walks past the flag that inspired the national anthem.


Associated Press writers Russ Bynum in Savannah, Ga., Kristin M. Hall in Nashville, Tenn., Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia, Blake Nicholson in Bismarck, N.D., Barbara Rodriguez in Chicago and Terry Collins in San Francisco contributed to this report.

From the ABC World News interview:

George Stephanopoulos: I know you just told Erskine Bowles and Senator Simpson, you want to get these talks moving right away. But boy, it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be easy. Paul Ryan. Spent a lot of time with him yesterday. The Congressman has really come out with a tough response to your speech. Let me-- I want to quote it exactly. He said, "The President was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate. Instead of building bridges, the President is poisoning wells." Are you poisoning wells?

President Obama: Oh, absolutely not. Look if you look at my speech yesterday it was not so much a critique of what the House Republicans have proposed as it was a description of what they’ve proposed.

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Video courtesy of ABC World News:

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HuffPost's Laura Bassett reports:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution to bar all federal funding to Planned Parenthood on Thursday, but the Senate rejected the proposal a few hours later by a vote of 58 to 42. Five Republican senators -- Massachussetts' Scott Brown, Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, Illinois' Mark Kirk, and Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine -- voted against the resolution, which was a “technical correction” to the budget bill that passed last week without the Planned Parenthood rider. Ten House Democrats voted in favor of the resolution, which passed the House by a vote of 241 to 185. “It’s clear that Republicans do not support family planning. It’s hard to understand, but it’s clear that they don’t, and have used debate on this bill to spread misinformation about the critical work that Planned Parenthood does on behalf of America’s women every day,” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) said on the House floor. “Today’s legislation, which has no chance of passing the Senate and becoming law, thank God, is just part of the Republican agenda that is the most comprehensive and radical assault on women’s health and reproductive freedom in our lifetime, and that’s saying something.” Watch full video of Pelosi’s speech here:

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Reuters reports that without bill approval, funding for agencies may have expired:

The Congress on Thursday approved billion in spending cuts this year as part of a bill to fund the federal government through September 30, sending the legislation to President Barack Obama to sign into law.

After months of wrangling between Democrats and Republicans, the Senate voted 81 to 19 in favor of the budget bill for the rest of this fiscal year. Passage came shortly after the House of Representatives voted 260-167 for the measure.

Without approval of this bill, U.S. government funding for most agencies would have expired at midnight on Friday.

More here.

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The Washington Post offers a graph of how the House voted on the 2011 budget (260-167 in favor). View the graph here.

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The Hill reports that the Senate has passed the spending bill in an 81 to 19 bipartisan vote:

H.R. 1473 will cut .9 billion from the remaining six-months of the 2011 budget if it is signed by President Obama as expected.

"It represents bipartisan agreement reached between leaders in the House, the White House and the Senate with the details being worked out by members of appropriations,” said Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) in calling on his colleagues to support the bill Thursday afternoon. “It includes cuts bigger than what I was comfortable with, but it is dramatically superior to what passed through the House months ago and equally superior to not passing a budget."

More here.

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The Hill reports that the Senate has defeated resolutions to block funding for Planned Parenthood and healthcare:

The Senate on Thursday defeated two resolutions to amend the fiscal year 2011 spending bill that would have blocked funding for Planned Parenthood, and all funds to implement last year's healthcare reform law.

The House passed both resolutions just hours before.

Votes on the defunding measures in both the House and the Senate were a condition Republicans insisted upon as part of last week's agreement with the White House and Democrats on funding for the rest of FY 2011.

The Senate defeated the Planned Parenthood amendment by a 42 to 58 vote. The House passed that resolution 240-185.

The Senate defeated the bill to defund the healthcare law, 47 to 53. The House passed that resolution 245-189.

Both measures were required to meet a 60-vote threshold.

More here.

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ThinkProgress posts on Twitter:

@ thinkprogress : Senate rejects defunding Planned Parenthood 42-58. 5 Republicans voted no.

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Rep. Nancy Pelosi speaks out against GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. The caption under the video reads:

Today, House Republicans passed H.Con.Res. 36, a concurrent resolution that would "correct the enrollment" of the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1473), by adding a section at the end of the bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Cutting off federal funding for Planned Parenthood would have a devastating impact on women's health care across the country.

Planned Parenthood health centers currently provide preventive services to millions of women in need of health care, including the provision of contraception, cancer screenings, breast exams, and HIV testing.


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HuffPost's Jason Linkins reports:

Lindsey Graham has styled himself as the Senate's great dealmaker -- the guy who will shepherd your measure through the partisan thicket and make sure it passes. All you have to do is do everything precisely the way Graham imagines it needs to be done, and you'll be fine. But the moment you hit one of his cryptic procedural tripwires -- ones you often didn’t know were laid in the first place -- Graham goes into full-on snit-fit mode, and vows to use whatever means at his disposal to shut the whole process down.

He's doing it again over the budget deal that was wrought April 8, because it cut an allocation that was to be used to fund an Army Corps of Engineers project that would have deepened the Port of Charleston.

Read more here.

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President Obama offered the following statement on Thursday, provided by the White House Press Office:

“Today, I was pleased to take another step to relieve unnecessary burdens on small businesses by signing H.R. 4 into law. Small business owners are the engine of our economy and because Democrats and Republicans worked together, we can ensure they spend their time and resources creating jobs and growing their business, not filling out more paperwork. I look forward to continuing to work with Congress to improve the tax credit policy in this legislation and I am eager to work with anyone with ideas about how we can make health care better or more affordable.”

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The White House has provided the following press release:

On Thursday, April 14, 2011, the President signed into law:

H.R. 4, the “Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection and Repayment of Exchange Subsidy Overpayments Act of 2011,” which repeals the expansion in the Affordable Care Act of requirements for businesses to report information to the Internal Revenue Service on payments for goods of 0 or more annually to other businesses and increases the amount of overpayment subject to repayment of premium assistance tax credits for health insurance coverage purchases through the Exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

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CNN radio reporter Lisa Desjardins writes on Twitter:

@ LisaDCNN : SENATE VOTES 47-53 against defunding the health care bill.

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ThinkProgress reports that Sen. Grassley has flip-flopped on his debt ceiling position:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), in keeping with other GOP lawmakers, recently stated that the GOP should not vote to increase the debt limit unless Democrats and President Obama make major concessions on federal spending cuts. That position, however, is exactly opposite the one he took in 2006, when he urged his Senate colleagues to unanimously vote to increase the debt limit, saying it should not be used “to control government debt and deficits.”

More here.

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@ senatus : Budget votes, beginning w/ correcting resolutions, now underway in the Senate.

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The Associated Press reports:

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has signed the first rollback of last year's health care law, a bipartisan repeal of a burdensome tax-reporting requirement that's widely unpopular with businesses.

The bill Obama signed Thursday repeals a provision that would have forced millions of businesses to file tax forms for every vendor selling them more than 0 in goods each year, starting in 2012. The filing requirement is unrelated to health care. However, it would have been used to pay for part of the new health law by ensuring that vendors pay taxes.

Republicans hope it is the first of many such bills, resulting in the entire health care law being scrapped. Democrats say the bill is part of an inevitable tinkering that will be needed to improve the health measure.

More here.

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HuffPost's Elise Foley reports:

Nearly half of the House Republicans who opposed a budget deal on Thursday were freshmen, many of whom were voted into office in November by a surge in support for Tea Party candidates.

The “no” votes from GOP freshman only made up about 30 percent of the overall class, most of which supported the bill. Still, a number of freshmen said they were disappointed by the deal struck last week by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House.

The final deal cut about billion from current spending levels -- much of it through budget gimmicks -- and blocked funding to certain programs. But the scope and level of the cuts were far lower than in the original House funding bill, which would have cut about billion from the 2011 budget and slashed funding for Obama’s health care law, Planned Parenthood, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

For some freshmen Republicans, already skeptical of the deal, the final nail in the coffin was a report on Wednesday that claimed the bill cut only 2 million from the deficit this year -- a far cry from the billion promised.

“It certainly didn’t help,” Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said of the article.

Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) told HuffPost he was disappointed with “a lot of things” about the funding deal, from the closed-door negotiations to the final total cut.

“The numbers continued to dissipate. We came here and people said 0 billion, then it goes down to 61, then it goes down to this, and it goes down to that,” West said before the vote. “We’re letting the American people down.”

Huizenga, West and 26 other freshmen joined with longer-serving conservative Republicans such as Reps. Jim Jordan (Ohio), Steve King (Iowa), Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Mike Pence (Ind.) to vote against the bill.

Other freshmen GOP members said they were unhappy with the final deal, but would still support it. Pennsylvanian Rep. Lou Barletta said he was displeased with cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, but had to swallow concerns to support the bill.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s certainly far from what they would like to do around here, and that’s spend more,” he said referring his Democratic rivals.

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The Associated Press writes:

WASHINGTON — Tough re-election campaigns looming, a handful of moderate Senate Democrats on Thursday choose between voting to cut off funds for President Barack Obama's health care law or showing their continued their support for the increasingly unpopular law.

The deal on the spending bill struck by Obama, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., requires a separate vote on cutting off money for the year-old health care overhaul. The effort is expected to fall short in the Senate, but it will put lawmakers on record – a prospect Republicans looking ahead to 2012 relish.

Moderate Democrats such as Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska stood with Obama and Democratic leaders in endorsing the health care law. Abandoning it now would draw charges of flip-flopping while voting to keep the cash flowing could engender voters' wrath.

"People are going to have to make a tough choice, but they're going to be held accountable either way," said Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the committee that helps Republicans get elected to the Senate.

Referring to the original votes on the law, Cornyn said, "It's a dilemma of their own making."

McCaskill, Tester and Nelson have drawn GOP rivals in states that either trend heavily Republican (Montana and Nebraska) or stand as electoral battlegrounds (Missouri). Freshman Sen. Joe Manchin has no announced foes in West Virginia and remains popular, but his state voters strongly backed Republican presidential nominee John McCain over Obama by 13 percentage points in 2008.

More here.

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

With many pro-choice advocates upset that the budget deal included restrictions on access to abortion in D.C., 33 Democratic House members voted against the legislation today. One of those lawmakers was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who tweeted, "I voted no on the CR today-we can do better by women, students, #DC and investing in our future."

Thirteen Democratic women voted for the bill.

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HuffPost Blogger Rep. Carolyn Maloney writes:

The Republicans seem to have a bit of a problem these days with truth in advertising. Because, for all their nice soundbites and talking points about reducing the deficit and creating jobs, the Republican Roadmap to Prosperity is most notable for two things. If followed, it would increase the deficit and kill American jobs.

The GOP's widely advertised, surefire method of deficit reduction is not unlike those late night TV infomercials that claim "you can shed those ugly pounds fast without dieting or exercise!" Ask any real doctor and they will tell you that without a responsible program of exercise and diet, the only surefire path to weight loss would be disease. And in fact, a grim variety of social illness is pretty much what the Republicans are pitching. They are trying to sell you a plan to put all the burden of getting our financial house in order on the middle class, the poor, the disadvantaged, the infirm and the elderly.

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CNN reports on elements of the budget deal agreed upon in the House today:

Under the deal, .5 billion would be from the budget for the remainder the fiscal year, which ends September 30. Among other things, the package slashes funding from a wide range of domestic programs and services, including high-speed rail, emergency first responders, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

As part of the agreement, Congress is also scheduled to vote Thursday on measures to de-fund Planned Parenthood and Obama's health care overhaul. While the bills are expected to pass the House, they have virtually no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate.

One point of concern for conservatives was a report released Wednesday by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office showing that of the .5 billion in savings, only 2 million will actually be realized this fiscal year. Boehner insisted Thursday that all of the cuts will take effect eventually, but conceded that the analysis "has caused some confusion" among House members.

"There are some who claim that the spending cuts in this bill ... are gimmicks," he said on the House floor. "I just think it is total nonsense. A cut is a cut."

More here.

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HuffPost's Jason Linkins writes:

Wednesday, Politico offered President Obama some advice on how to approach his afternoon deficit speech in a piece titled "7 things Obama needs to do." And for some reason, MediaMatters' Simon Maloy actually read the damn thing, and was surprised to learn that the piece actually offered all sorts of conflicting advice -- almost as if Politico should maybe stay out of this whole "advice to presidents" game.

How conflicting was it? In the second paragraph, they advise the president to "signal to Republicans that he's open to compromise." In paragraph 5, they caution "no matter what Obama says Wednesday, he won't go far enough to satisfy most Republicans." Which would tend to make the whole "signalling an openness to compromise" part a pretty useless endeavor.

More here.

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Politico reports that Republicans had to reach out to Democrats in order to pass Thursday's vote in the House:

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stepped forward to support the package together with old Democratic allies on the House Appropriations Committee. Across the aisle, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) — who bore the brunt of the dissent as fellow leaders stood silently by — bluntly told his colleagues: “This is the best we could get out of divided government.”

With 59 Republicans defecting, Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) knew that help was needed, but the dynamics were such that Democrats held back to milk the crisis facing the GOP. Ultimately 81 Democrats — many of whom had planned to do so all week — joined in support, but the majority only cast their votes in the final minute.

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ABC News Correspondent Jonathan Karl writes on Twitter:

@ jonkarl : Initial count: 60 Republican freshman voted YES on the spending deal. Only 27 voted no.

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HuffPost's Jon Ward writes on Twitter:

@ jonward11 : RT @sethdmichaels: RT @2chambers The deal has passed, 260 to 167. With six not voting. 59 Rs voted no, 81 Dems voted yes.

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@ NancyPelosi : I voted no on the CR today-we can do better by women, students, #DC and investing in our future.

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The Washington Post writes about the budget deal recently approved by the House:

Eliminating any threat of a government shutdown until the fall, the House on Thursday approved a funding plan that reduces federal agency budgets by more than billion for the second half of the year.

On a 260-167 vote, a bipartisan coalition supported the plan, as conservatives revolted over what they considered budgeting gimmicks and liberals opposed the plan as too draconian in its impact on programs that benefit lower-income individuals.

The Senate will take up the measure Thursday evening and is expected to pass it on a large bipartisan vote, sending it to the White House for President Obama’s signature in time to meet the Friday midnight deadline for when the current funding resolution expires.

More here.

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The House has passed the budget bill: 260-167.

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HuffPost's Sam Stein writes on Twitter:

@ samsteinhp : this thing passed.

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HuffPost's Jon Ward writes on Twitter:

@ jonward11 : CR now has 218 votes and will pass barring some unforeseen change in votes. shutdown averted.

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