As everyone knows by now, the Great Government Shutdown of 2011 has been called off … or at least postponed. Republicans finished what the Democrats wouldn’t by clinching a budget deal late last night, finishing up the FY2011 budget with a total reduction in spending of $49 billion:
Under the terms of the agreement, the six-month bill will slash $38.5 billion from current spending levels, which is $23 billion less than the reductions Republicans originally demanded but $30 billion more than what Democrats had initially offered to cut.
President Obama praised the budget compromise and the prevention of a shutdown. He warned the cuts would affect services and infrastructure work, even as he acknowledged the need for spending reductions. “I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances,” Obama said.
The bill does not include a Republican provision to de-fund Planned Parenthood, which provides health care services for women, including abortion. The Planned Parenthood provision was one of the main sticking points during the negotiations, with the GOP insisting it remain in the bill.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed to remove the Planned Parenthood provision in exchange for an agreement that would allow Congress to take up the funding issue separately.The Republicans also won inclusion of a provision that will require the Senate to vote on a bill to de-fund the health care reform law.
Another provision won by Republicans would prohibit the District of Columbia from spending local or federal funds on abortion services.
This looks less like a victory for either side and more of a five-month truce. The fight to cut just a tiny slice of the overall budget took months to resolve, and all of these issue will arise again in September when Congress has to pass the FY2012 budget. Don’t expect the fight to get any easier, at least not on discretionary spending.
But that’s not the big problem anyway. The big problem in the budget is entitlement spending, which will require months to review for reform. The only proposal on the table for that at the moment is Ryan’s plan. The other option would be to consider the Bowles-Simpson plan, but since Bowles and Simpson both gave at least praise for Ryan’s proposal, Ryan has the momentum. Now, with FY2011 off the table, the House can move forward on serious entitlement reform that will give an actual opportunity to get significant reductions to the deficit and start us on the path of fiscal sanity.
We’ll see who won in September, but Republicans have achieved one major accomplishment. Not only did they force the first actual reductions in government spending in ages, but they have changed the political paradigm from whether to cut to how much and where to cut. That’s a pretty impressive victory for a party that only controls one chamber of Congress.
Update: One last point along these lines. Democrats have spent the last four months arguing that Republicans were too radical to govern and wanted to destroy government. Instead, Republicans fashioned a deal on their own terms and passed a budget deal — something Democrats couldn’t or wouldn’t do when they had all the power in DC. This gives the GOP a lot of credibility on leadership and governance, and all of it at the expense of Harry Reid and Barack Obama.