TOPICS > Politics

Government Stays Open, But Parties Ready for More Budget Brawling

April 11, 2011 at 6:14 PM EDT
After striking a deal to dodge a federal government shutdown late Friday, congressional leaders shifted their focus on Monday to raising the debt ceiling and lowering the deficit in next year's budget and beyond. Judy Woodruff reports on the two battles promising to dwarf the political intensity of their predecessor.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The federal government opened for business today as usual, no longer in immediate danger of being shut down. Instead, Washington’s focus shifted to spending battles that will dwarf the deal fashioned on Friday.  

The action at the Capitol was all behind the scenes today, with lawmakers still negotiating out details on funding the government for the rest of the fiscal year. Leaders reached agreement on a general framework late Friday night, just in time to avert a shutdown of federal agencies.

House Speaker John Boehner hailed the inclusion of $38 billion in spending cuts over the next six months.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: As you know all, this has been a lot of discussion and a long fight. But we fought to keep government spending down, because it really will, in fact, help create a better environment for job creators in our country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In his own late-night remarks, President Obama said both sides had made sacrifices.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Saturday, the president celebrated with a visit to the Lincoln Memorial, which remained open because of the deal. He said he hoped the groundwork was laid for future cooperation in Congress.

Today, Mr. Obama welcomed about 50 eighth-graders from Colorado to the White House. He had cited them Friday, after a parent wrote to him about how a shutdown would affect their trip.

With those fears quieted, it’s on to two new fiscal fights, with trillions, not billions, at stake: raising the federal debt ceiling and passing a budget for the next fiscal year.

At a fund-raising dinner in Connecticut Saturday, Speaker Boehner said there is a moral obligation to raise the debt ceiling, so the government can legally borrow what it needs to operate. But, he said, Republicans would demand concessions.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: How can you raise the debt limit without dealing with the problem that’s causing us to have to increase the debt limit? There is no plan to deal with — with the debt that we’re facing. And I can just tell you this, that there will not be an increase in the debt limit without something really, really big attached to it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: This afternoon, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney warned the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic.

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY JAY CARNEY: To hold hostage a vote to — in return for an exchange for some proposal that one party wants is not the way to treat this issue. It’s too — it’s too dangerous to do it that way.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Carney also said the president now regrets his own vote against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, when he served in the Senate.

The new vote could come as early as mid-May. At the same time, lawmakers will be sparring over the 2012 budget. The president released his blueprint in February and said it produces $1 trillion in savings over the next decade.

Last week, Republican Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chair, unveiled his plan to slash $5.8 trillion in spending over the same period. It includes reforming Medicare by providing payments for private health plans instead of reimbursing doctors and hospitals directly.

Ryan defended the plan Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

REP. PAUL RYAN, R-Wis.: We’re preserving and protecting it. No change occurs to Medicare for anybody who is on Medicare or 10 years away from retiring. And for future generations, what we are proposing is a personalized Medicare.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On CNN, White House senior adviser David Plouffe said the president would offer a different vision in a speech on Wednesday.

DAVID PLOUFFE, senior White House adviser: But his approach to Medicare will be this: How do we really preserve the program, not end it? How do we squeeze every dollar out of inefficiencies without putting all the burden on seniors?

JUDY WOODRUFF: In the meantime, the House is expected to take up the compromise bill for this year’s budget on Wednesday. With details still unknown, supporting votes in both parties could slip.