The apocalypse has been averted! The government is still open for business after a final-hour agreement was reached that cuts $38.5 billion (although some news reports are rounding up to $39 billion). While I would have liked more cuts, these were the most that Republicans could get, and they are actually pretty substantial.
The real winner in all of this is Speaker of the House John Boehner. The Tea Party faction is firmly behind him, averting the “GOP Civil War” that the Democrats were gleefully cheering on. Speaker Boehner is the leader that Obama isn’t.
Here are the details of the compromise from The Daily Caller:
Republican and Democratic leaders have agreed to a deal for $39 billion in spending cuts and a stopgap spending bill to avert a government shutdown while legislation reflecting the deal is enacted.
The last-minute agreement would cut $38.5 billion in domestic spending over the rest of Fiscal Year 2011 and increase defense spending by $5 billion.
“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,” said Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in a joint statement.
President Obama touted the deal as the “largest annual spending cut in our history” and expressed happiness the Washington Monument would remain open Saturday.
Although none of the major, controversial policy riders were included, a series of lesser provisions were.
Those include a ban on D.C. spending public funds on abortion as well as guaranteed votes on restrictions to the president’s health care law, among others.
Also included was a guaranteed up or down vote on defunding Planned Parenthood in the Senate.
As Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner pitched the deal to rank-and-file members, reaction was mostly positive but several key conservative members expressed disappointment by shaking their heads, a source in the room said.
Rep. Brian Bilbray, California Republican, said concern about the deal did not come from the large class of GOP freshmen, but from veteran conservative lawmakers. “There’s a real degree of maturity among the freshmen,” Bilbray said.
Rep. Mike Fitzgpatrick, Pennsylvania Republican, said the size of the cuts “sounds pretty historic to me.”
Fitzpatrick said the GOP budget introduced by Rep. Paul Ryan earlier in the week made agreeing to the deal easier. “It refocused attention…because Ryan, that’s the bigger fight,” Fitzpatrick said.
Rep. Tom Price, chairman of the GOP Policy Committee, issued a terse statement that did not praise the deal but said at least it will let Congress “move beyond this current debate” and onto more significant cuts.
Rep. Michele Bachmann vowed on Fox News to vote against the bill and said there were many members like her who thought “now was the time to fight.”
The deal does not include policy riders that would have defunded Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, or a series of EPA regulations.
However, besides the vote on defunding Planned Parenthood, Republicans are guaranteed a vote to repeal Obamacare in the Senate. Although the vote is extremely unlikely to pass, it could prove a potent political weapon for the GOP.
Other riders included in the deal include lower funding for the IRS to implement Obamacare and a series of studies that will examine the law’s impacts in more detail. One provision provides for a “full audit” of the Obamacare waivers provided to companies and unions.
For the deal to become final, both the House and Senate will need to pass a bill reflecting its contents and President Obama will have to sign the legislation.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell also sought to focus attention on the larger issue of deficit spending in a speech on the Senate floor announcing the deal.
Because it will take a few days to draft the legislation, “the Senate passed a short-term spending measure Friday night to buy lawmakers the time needed to prepare and pass the final budget bill next week. The House passed the measure early Saturday, which will be signed by President Obama when he receives it, according to senior administration officials.”
As with any political fight, context is important:
The history of offers on this bill goes something like this. Democrats first offered no cuts, then $4 billion, then $6.5 billion, then $33 billion, then settled at $38.5 billion.
Boehner made numerous adjustments to his offer in recent days too, but started at $32 billion, then with a Tea Party push went to $62 billion, then dropped to $40 billion, then $38.5 billion.
Democrats claimed they met Republicans halfway after the $10 billion in cuts that already passed this year were approved. They settled late Friday night at three and a half times more.
Boehner came in $8.5 billion higher than the halfway point between his high offer of $61 billion in cuts and the Democrats opening bid of zero cuts.
It was not a totally lopsided bargain. Dems have some silver linings. There were no votes on defunding the EPA or PBS and NPR. Democrats fought for and won a $2 billion cut from the Department of Defense, knocking the military appropriation for the rest of the year down to $513 billion.
But the GOP had to be able to see this as a win in the end, because it is puny compared to what they want to do next.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s 2012 budget resolution proposes cuts of $5 TRILLION in the next 10 yrs.
But the resolution is a non-binding roadmap for the committees to use as they approve tax and spending bills for next year, the resolution will never be signed into law by the president.
The next battle with consequences begins in a matter of two short weeks when the accumulated U.S. debt will be nearing it’s $14 trillion legal limit. So Congress will have to vote to raise the ceiling so Uncle Sam can borrow still more money.
The administration has said it will need to be raised between April 15 and May 31 or the U.S. could default and create a new fiscal crisis of unknowable magnitude. Fiscal hawks plan to demand strict, enforceable spending caps, triggers for across the board cuts, and austerity measures in exchange for raising the debt limit.
This short-term agreement was just a beginning.
Two months ago, Harry Reid considered $32 billion in budget cuts “extreme” and “draconian.” As of yesterday, he was whining about “women’s health” and how mean the Tea Party is. Harry Reid is the biggest loser, because he’s a fool and a tool and a stubborn mule. Charlie Sheen would call him a troll.
This compromise comes after weeks of fear mongering from the Democrats. So much for the “new tone” after the Tuscon shooting:
The battle is far from over. Democrats didn’t want to cut anything, but now they are agreeing to $38.5 billion in cuts. What will they do when trillions of cuts are on the table? My guess is more fear mongering.
Hear more of my take on the budget battle on Saturday night’s special edition of the KaibCast. Don’t miss it! You can listen to it anytime by clicking the hyperlink.
(Did you catch the Charlie Sheen reference in the title? He was booed off the Radio City Music Hall stage Friday night, in case you care.)