Obama Hails Short-Term Deal to Avert Government Shutdown
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill reached a deal late Friday night to avert a government shutdown that would have taken place at midnight had the Congress not agreed to a measure to keep the government working. President Barack Obama tonight hailed an 11th-hour agreement reached between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for a continuing resolution that would keep the government open for the next five days. The agreement includes some $40 billion in spending cuts, as demanded by Republicans. The deal is being heralded as the largest non-defense spending cut in history of the nation.
The continuing resolution met agreement with Democrats because it did not carry the ideological riders for defunding Planned Parenthood and eviscerating the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency attached to an earlier continuing resolution passed by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives. (Read AlterNet's Joshua Holland for the lowdown on what the budget wrangle is really all about.)
"Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions, and give ground on issues that were important to them, and I certainly did that," Obama said in a televised statement following Boehner's announcement of the deal. "Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful. Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed."
He went on to decry the Republicans' attempts to legislate what he called "social Issues" as part of the earlier continuing resolution.
Yet the many of nation's leading economists, such as Dean Baker, caution that spending cuts such as these could cripple the economy, still in a weakened state in the aftermath of the Bush crash.
The fighting over spending cuts is largely driven by newly elected Republican freshmen House members, many of whom ally with the Tea Party movement. According to a report released earlier this week by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 62 of those new House members -- a large enough bloc to deprive Boehner of a majority should they refuse to vote on a particular measure -- received campaign donations from either Charles or David Koch, the captains of Koch Industries. The Koch brothers have made the neutering of the EPA one of their top priorities; Koch Industries core businesses are rooted in the oil and gas sector.
Another top priority for the Kochs is the shrinking of government in general, and the federal workforce in particular. A smaller government means weak enforcement of government regulations, while a smaller federal workforce weakens public sector unions, which usually ally with Democrats.