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Obama signs bill averting government shutdown

The short-term spending bill was passed overnight by both houses of Congress and keeps the government operating until Friday. Its signing was announced in a news release, in contrast to the dramatics earlier this week.

April 09, 2011|By Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • President Obama at the White House after he spoke regarding the budget and averted government shutdown Friday.
President Obama at the White House after he spoke regarding the budget and… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)

President Obama signed the short-term spending bill that averted a government shutdown, the White House announced Saturday.

The measure, passed overnight by both houses of Congress, keeps the government operating until Friday. In a sharp contrast to the week of political sturm und drang, the signing was announced in a news release.

Earlier, Obama called on Republicans and Democrats to work together and be willing to compromise on the difficult economic and social problems ahead as they did to avert a government shutdown just hours earlier.

In his weekly radio address, Obama praised the congressional leaders for reaching on agreement on about $38 billion of spending cuts to keep the government open for the rest of the fiscal year, even though some of the specifics will hurt.

"This is an agreement to invest in our country's future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history," Obama said. "Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful -- programs people rely on will be cut back; needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances."

Republicans and Democrats late Friday reached an agreement on a package of cuts to the budget for this fiscal year which ends Sept. 30. Both houses passed a temporary bridge overnight and are expected to deal with the final legislation next week to allow time for the language and legislative process, what White House spokesman Jay Carney last week described as a time-consuming effort akin to "pushing a pig through a python.'

But the seeming resolution to the current crisis is only a small step in what promises to be months of haggling on the next budget and related fiscal issues such as raising the debt ceiling.

"It's my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead," Obama said in his radio address. "From creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits."

Republicans lost little time, however, in challenging Obama over the budget for the year that begins on Oct. 1.

While praising efforts to cut some spending now, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) used the GOP radio response to push his budget plan released last week.

"Bipartisan legislation is in sight to enact the largest spending cut in American history," Ryan said of Friday night's agreement. "This is good news for job creators in America --- but much more has to be done to put our nation on a true path to prosperity. Earlier this week, the House Budget Committee advanced a new budget for the United States government that will move the debate in Washington from billions in spending cuts to trillions."

As he has done repeatedly in the last week, Ryan outlined his plan, which includes reshaping Medicare, the health insurance plan for the elderly, and Medicaid, the program for the poor. Republicans have argued that structural changes to entitlements are required to bring down the budget deficits and long-term debt. Democrats agree on the need for structural changes, but contend the GOP plans go too far.

That same political chasm widened in the last weeks of turmoil around the negotiations for the current budget, a political fight that ended with an agreement hours before Friday's midnight deadline. All sides claimed victory in achieving what they called historic budget cuts.

Conservative Republicans had sought $61 billion in spending cuts and policy riders that the House of Representatives had approved this year. Democrats opposed the policy riders, especially ones cutting funding for Planned Parenthood and actions by the Environmental Protection Agency. Democrats at one point announced that the sides agreed on a target of cuts at $33 billion, a figure Republicans said wasn't true.

In the last day, the faceoff between the parties grew even more tense as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said the final figure had been agreed to, but that the GOP was holding out on the policy riders. House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, denied both positions.

In the end, the parties compromised at about $38 billion, closer to the GOP position and more than Democrats had said they were prepared to give. In exchange, Republicans stepped away from some of their demands on social policy including one that would have made changes in women's health programs run by Planned Parenthood. Democrats had fought especially hard to keep that program intact.

But not all of the policy riders were eliminated. Final language was still pending, but reportedly, federal or local government funds would be banned for abortions in the District of Columbia.

Throughout the negotiations, president Obama urged the parties to behave like adults and seek compromise, while his top administration officials were parties to the negotiations. In the final week, the president and the vice president met with the leaders several times and Obama called them by telephone as well, though Republicans complained that Obama waited too long to get seriously involved.

Michael.muskal@latimes.com

Twitter.com/LATimesmuskal

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