By Molly K. Hooper, Alexander Bolton and Bob Cusack - 04/09/11 06:20 PM EDT
President Obama on Saturday signed a seven-day extension of government funding, which is the first part of an agreement to keep the government running through the end of the current fiscal year.
The bill was signed without fanfare 13 hours after Democratic and Republican congressional leaders reached a last-minute deal late Friday to avoid a government shutdown.
The agreement, which came after days of partisan sparring and rhetorical drama, would fund the government through the end of September and cut $78.5 billion compared to Obama's proposed but never enacted fiscal 2011 budget.
Because it will take several days to translate the agreement into a legislative draft, both chambers passed the stopgap to keep the government funded until April 15. The short-term measure cuts $2 billion from the budget, the first of the $78.5 billion in total cuts.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) claimed victory in a brief press conference before the midnight deadline.
"This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight," Boehner said. “We fought to keep government spending down because it really will affect and help create a better environment for job creators in our country.”
Obama, in a televised address Friday night, also praised the deal while acknowledging that some of the cuts he agreed to will be “painful.”
The deal cuts a total of $38 billion from current spending levels over the next six months. Of that total, $17.8 billion came from mandatory spending programs, including $2.5 billion in House transportation spending, according to a senior Democratic aide familiar with the deal.
Democrats knocked off most of the controversial policy riders that House Republicans had included in H.R. 1, the package of spending cuts that passed in February.
Republicans, however, won the inclusion of a rider to expand the District of Columbia’s school voucher program and to authorize a Government Accountability Office study of a financial oversight board established by the Wall Street reform bill.
Most significantly, Democrats won the disagreement over funding that included Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services.
A senior Democratic leadership aide said Boehner described the abortion-related policy riders as must-have priorities, but Obama and Democrats stood firm, arguing they would negatively affect women’s access to cancer screenings and other health services.
In return, Republicans won a promise from Senate Democrats to schedule next week's votes on two bills — one defunding Title X and Planned Parenthood and another to defund the 2010 healthcare reform law — at the same time as consideration of the spending deal. Democrats also agreed to reinstate a ban on taxpayer funding for abortions in Washington, D.C., for the next six months.
GOP amendments that would have blocked the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to implement a variety of regulations and would have eliminated federal funds for NPR also fell by the wayside.
Negotiators battled over the size of the Defense Department's budget and finally agreed to spending $2 billion below the amount the House approved in the package it passed in February.
Both sides seemed relieved to have averted a shutdown that polls showed would probably have done political damage to both parties.
“In the final hours before our government would be forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for and hundreds of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform,” Obama said.
Asked if he were happy about the deal, Boehner paused and told The Hill, "It's as good a deal as we could get."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) praised Boehner for eventually reaching a compromise, despite the opposition of some conservative House members.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who's running for Senate in 2012, said he was "disappointed.”
"A lot of us are quite disappointed with the level" of spending cuts, he said.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Reid said, “I first of all want to express my appreciation to the Speaker and his office, it’s been a grueling process. We didn’t do it at this late hour for drama, we did it because it’s been very hard to arrive at this point.”
Boehner presented the bipartisan deal to his caucus at a meeting that began at 9:45 p.m. Friday evening, even though it had not been finalized.
Negotiators, which included Boehner's chief of staff Barry Jackson, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s chief of staff David Krone and Rob Nabors, a senior adviser to Obama, agreed to the broad outline of a deal by 8 p.m. They exchanged final handshakes around 10:30 p.m., just as the House GOP meeting broke up.
Lawmakers said the conference meeting was particularly moving.
After a week of partisan sniping and the uncertainty over a potential government shutdown, members rallied behind Boehner in a major show of support for the deal. "There were more people that were very adamant for it," according to a source who was in the room.
"The one who got the most emotional was Marsha Blackburn [R-Tenn.]; she was emotionally in favor of it, she broke down," a GOP source told The Hill. "I mean, Blackburn, nobody could believe it," the source added.
Unlike Boehner, who is notorious for his tears, Blackburn, is not one for crying in public.
And her plea to colleagues struck a chord in many members, according to several attendees. Boehner, too, shed a tear during Blackburn's remarks.
Sean J. Miller contributed to this report.
This story was updated at 2:20 p.m. and was originally published at 1:45 a.m.