April 9, 2011; Source: Politico | Nothing like a last minute deal. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid popped in and out of negotiating chambers up until the eleventh hour to offer varying interpretations of the emerging FY2011 budget deal. They looked and sounded a little like Abbott and Costello doing their “Who’s on First” routine. They agreed to cut $38.5 billion out of the FY2011 continuing resolution, but details of the deal won’t really be known until perhaps Tuesday or later. The only thing negotiators agreed upon was a broad outline and fiscal target of sorts, with details to be worked into legislative language to be approved next week.
That makes some people nervous that Republican no-votes on the resolution that passed after midnight early Saturday morning will find a way to undo the deal. But don’t bet on it. While there might be tussles over some of the finer points, neither side wants to have to eat shutdown crow after taking credit for keeping the government operating.
What we know: The target of $38.5 billion is a cut from the current FY2011 spending, but actually $78.5 billion dollar less than the President’s proposed budget. The White House blogged on both sides of the deal, touting the “largest annual spending cut in our history” that will “save taxpayers money,” but noting that “many [of the cuts] will be painful” necessitated because “the fiscal situation is such that we have to act.”
Where will the painful cuts come from? Thirteen billion dollars will come from various programs at the Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services departments. Additional billions will come from HUD’s housing assistance programs and from foreign assistance. The White House says it saved Head Start for the moment, the maximum Pell higher education assistance grants, and the “race to the top” education reform. Federal funding for Planned Parenthood gets saved by pushing the decision to a Senate debate and vote. While the Republicans gave up on attaching the abortion issue to the budget nationally, they managed to prohibit taxpayer-funded abortions within the District of Columbia and won Democratic approval to revive the voucher program long favored by Boehner that sends poor D.C. kids to private schools.
Boehner’s office issued a muscular statement touting its wins in the deal, including a bevy of mandated audits and studies meant to derail parts of health care reform, denial of additional funding to the IRS, and mandated private sector audits of the core component of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation.
This agreement is just the first inning of the ballgame. Coming next is the debate to raise the debt ceiling, for which the Republicans are going to exact additional billions in cuts. And then there is the FY2012 budget debate. Stay tuned.—Rick Cohen