At 11:04 PM Friday, President Obama walked to the podium in the Blue Room at the White House and announced a deal had been struck. He explained that no government shutdown would occur at midnight. Though he demanded that Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner reach a deal in the morning, he was able to make his announcement before the deadline arrived.
As with any battle, observers immediately began pronouncing winners and losers. The true winner was the American taxpayer, as the government remains open and running without interruption that would have proven disruptive to all sides.
"The Republicans ate the Democrats' lunch", said Doug Schoen, former Clinton advisor back in the days of the 1995 government shutdown. That one lasted five days and Clinton came off looking better to the voters then the GOP did, frankly speaking. This time around, it is not 1995, and the atmosphere is different. Clinton didn't have an angry electorate over Hillarycare, because it didn't go far and there was no Tea Party demanding fiscal responsibility from lawmakers.
The back and forth, the dueling press conferences between the two parties, was good theatre for political junkies. This time around, however, the American public told pollsters that both parties were to blame, not just the GOP, and that put additional pressure on Democrats. This administration polls more than any before and that must have kept them on edge.
Simply put, there was no reason that Congress was in this spot to begin with. The Democrats controlled the White House, the House and the Senate when the deadline for the budget in October 2010 arrived. They punted. For the first time in decades a budget was not submitted. No budget. Many excuses were offered - they would wait for the final product from the President's Deficit Committee, among them. Time lapsed and the Republican landslide victories in November 2010 changed President Obama's world.
The real winner - besides the American taxpayer - in this mess was Speaker of the House Boehner. He proved to be a steady and diligent negotiator. Keep in mind that at the beginning of the process, Democrats offered to make zero spending cuts. Zero.
This is the statement released by Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid:
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. We will cut $78.5 billion below the President's 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings."
Keep in mind that this is $78.5 billion from the President's own budget. That makes his statement after the agreement was reached all the more odd - that we must learn to live within our means. Yes, he's the same guy who has tripled our national deficit in just two short years of being in the office.
This agreement between Democrats and Republicans on behalf of all Americans is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history.
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. 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. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs. Investments in our kid's education and student loans; and clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future.
Speaker Boehner kept the Republican caucus together, despite the diversity within. From Tea Party to pragmatic moderates,the Republicans supported Boehner's negotiations throughout the process, and by doing so denied Democrats of pulling the party apart. The unity was crucial.
The budget bill is a clean bill. Without the riders attached - sticking points for Democrats who would have not allowed them to go further in the Senate and the President would have never signed on to them- separate debate and votes will occur for them. This is a big concession for Leader Reid. He proclaimed early on that he would not allow debate and votes on repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood. Now conservatives will get that vote in the Senate.
President Obama didn't win much out of this drama. He avoided a shutdown but had little to do with it. His White House conferred with K Street lobbyists, it is reported, to get their approval on the agreement to have the votes in the Senate. That is not something the White House wanted out. Remember, President Obama claimed his administration would not be beholden to lobbyists.
President Obama also has to sign another Continuing Resolution for the next few days to avoid the shutdown, after he said he would not do so at the beginning of the process. He had to agree to strong budget cuts after saying he would not because the cuts would hurt the economy. The Republicans led by Boehner argued the opposite is true and won that argument.
We are on the right path.