Shutdown Watch Liveblog: 11th-Hour Deal Averts Shutdown

BY News Desk  April 9, 2011 at 12:35 AM EDT

12:33 a.m. | Stopgap Clears House, Heads to Obama to Sign

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the short-term government-funding measure early Saturday it passed the Senate. The bill heads to President Obama to be signed into law. Technically, there was a short shutdown, but as Reuters put it:

Federal funding technically ran out at midnight on Friday. But with the stopgap funding legislation rushing through Congress, the White House Office of Management and Budget ordered no disruption in government services.

The White House reports that President Obama has no public events scheduled this weekend.

12:09 a.m. ET | White House, Congress Reach Last-Minute Agreement

Congressional leaders brokered a last-minute agreement late Friday to keep the government open into next week as part of a larger deal to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year — mere minutes before a government shutdown was set to start.

After days of negotiating, congressional leaders agreed to a short-term spending bill that would give Congress time to pass a separate spending bill that would cut approximately $39 billion from current spending levels — $78.5 billion below President Obama’s fiscal year 2011 request – to fund the government through September, the remainder of the fiscal year.

“Senator Reid, the White House and I have been able to come to an agreement,” House Speaker John Boehner said Friday night after meeting with members of the House Republican Caucus.

A joint statement by Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spelled out the deal:

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.

The short-term spending bill passed the Senate late Friday and awaited House approval (Editor’s note: The House easily passed the measure early Saturday).
President Obama spoke shortly after Boehner to praise the deal, framing it as an example of both parties working together.

“This agreement between Republicans and Democrats is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest spending cut in our history,” he said.

Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor soon afterward, thanking Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for their cooperation.

“This is historic what we’ve done. Seventy-eight and a half billion below the 2011 budget that we have been working off of,” Reid said. “What we’ve done is difficult, but important for the country…But if the American people have to make tough choices and they’re doing it every day, so should their leaders,” Reid said.

Throughout a chaotic day on Capitol Hill, both sides went to the microphones to describe what issues were preventing a deal. Boehner said the fight was over how much money to cut, while Reid said Republicans were holding up a deal because they wanted to eliminate money to Title X, a health program that also funds Planned Parenthood.

As the night wore on, momentum built for an agreement. Reid scheduled an appearance on the Senate floor at 8 p.m., then 10 p.m. and then 11:15 p.m. as White House, Senate and House staff members worked to hammer out an agreement. Boehner met with House Republicans at 9:45 p.m., and soon afterward the deal was announced.
McConnell, speaking after Reid on the Senate floor, foreshadowed that this debate is just the beginning of much bigger spending fights to come on Capitol Hill.

“These reductions … are in the billions. Once we get through this process by the end of this week, we will move on to a much larger discussion about how we saved trillions. By enacting … on a bipartisan basis a budget that genuinely begins to get on top of this problem, and the problem, as we know, is $14 trillion in debt and over $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities,” McConnell said.

“I congratulate the Majority Leader and the Speaker. This is an important first step but just the beginning of what we need to do to get our house, our fiscal house in order,” he added.

12:03 a.m. ET Saturday | President Obama’s Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob Lew released this directive:

This memorandum follows yesterday’ s memorandum M-II-13, and provides an update on the potential lapse of appropriations.

While the current Continuing Resolution (CR) expires at midnight tonight, Congress has indicated that it has reached agreement on a funding bill for the rest of the fiscal year. Earlier this evening, the Senate passed a short term CR that will extend current funding levels until the full-year bill can be passed and enacted next week. We expect the House to take up the CR shortly and for the President to sign this CR no later than tomorrow. As a result, at this time agencies are instructed to continue their normal operations.

Thank you for your cooperation and support throughout this process.

11:29 p.m. | The Senate has passed the short-term spending bill to keep the government open.

Watch Sen. Harry Reid’s remarks:



11:18 p.m. | Watch President Obama’s remarks:



11:15 p.m. | Speaking on the Senate floor late Friday, Majority Leader Harry Reid called the negotiations process “grueling.”

“We didn’t do it for drama,” he said of the late hour. “We did because it was very hard to get to this point.”

Reid said $78.5 billion would be cut from the budget and said a second agreement was reached on controversial policy measures.

The House and Senate were to rush through a stopgap bill until the broader bill could be finalized.

11:06 p.m. | President Obama said a last-minute deal with congressional leaders to avoid a government shutdown happened because “Americans of different beliefs came together.”

He said some cuts will be painful but the White House protected its priority projects.

11:01 p.m. | House Speaker John Boehner spoke just before 11 p.m. ET following a closed-door meeting and announced the House Republicans had reached a deal with the White House and the Senate just before the 11th hour to avert a government shutdown.



Boehner said the House would pass a “bridge” continuing resolution to keep the government in operation through the middle of next week before an agreement can be voted on to keep the government funded through the end of the fiscal year in September.

House Speaker John Boehner; Flickr Creative Commons photo

9:36 p.m. | On Friday night’s NewsHour, New York Times columnist David Brooks gave this assessment of the shutdown debates:

It’s absurdity. I mean, it really is absurdity.

The amount of money, by the federal budget standards, is trivial. The side issues are perennial issues which will never be settled. It’s like people getting divorced because they disagree about the napkins.

And so they’re just fighting and fighting. And all day, as you watch the press conferences and see the statements, first, you see them, totally different diagnosis on what on earth in happening.



Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus looked ahead to the coming budget battles:

The really important thing about this little episode — I have been calling it a tantrum — is what the impact will be on the actually important things that need to happen down the road. The most immediately important one is to raise the debt ceiling, which is what grownups do, even if they don’t like it, when they are faced with the need to keep the nation’s full faith and credit.

9:16 p.m. | The latest from Reuters:

Republicans in the House of Representatives are scheduled to huddle at 9:45 EDT to discuss the status of budget negotiations, Representative Jeb Hensarling said Friday.

Hensarling, a member of the House Republican leadership, said a spending-cut deal has not yet been reached. Congress and President Barack Obama face a midnight deadline to reach a deal before U.S. government funding runs out.

The meeting comes about three hours before a midnight deadline to avoid the first U.S. government shutdown in 15 years, and the first during wartime.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to members of the press during a news briefing April 8, 2011 on Capitol Hill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., speaks to members of the press during a news briefing April 8, 2011 on Capitol Hill. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

5:43 p.m. ET | With just over six hours to go before the shutdown deadline, the NewsHour broadcast is about to tape. We’ll have reports and analysis from Todd Zwillich, who covers Washington for WNYC Radio, and analysis from columnists David Brooks and Ruth Marcus. Be sure to tune in or check back later online for video and transcripts.

5:39 p.m. ET | The White House’s Office of Management and Budget posted information on contingency plans for various federal agencies. Read it here.

1:15 p.m. ET | House Speaker John Boehner spoke again briefly Friday afternoon, saying that “most of the policy issues have been dealt with,” but Republicans are “damn serious” about cutting spending.

“These discussions continue to be respectful,” he said. “We continue to work together.”

Boehner said he was “hopeful” about a deal being made, but “we’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people.”

“It’s been a difficult several weeks,” he said, adding that “Our intention has been to keep the government open.”


11 a.m. ET Friday | House Speaker John Boehner held a news conference Friday morning with a very brief update on negotiations. He took no questions.

“There’s only one reason we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending. We’re close to a resolution on policy issues. But I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House and Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?” he said.

He blasted Washington’s “spending addiction,” and said the Senate should follow the House’s lead in passing a troop funding measure.

Moments after Boehner’s news conference, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor, saying the Republican leadership needed to “snap out of it” and drop their push to block funding of women’s health clinics that provide abortions. He called it an “extreme social agenda” that was holding up funding of the government “at this late hour.”

Update: 9:54 p.m. ET | Thursday evening’s White House meeting between House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and President Obama did not yield a deal to prevent a government shutdown

Boehner and Reid released this one-sentence joint statement:

“We have narrowed the issues, however, we have not yet reached an agreement. We will continue to work through the night to attempt to resolve our remaining differences.”

President Obama spoke to reporters after the meeting in the White House briefing room and said that while he isn’t ready to express wild optimism that a deal can be reached, he expects Congressional leaders to tell him Friday morning whether an agreement is possible. The deadline for a shutdown is just over 24 hours away.

“I hope I can announce relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted,” Mr. Obama said.

He also warned that a shutdown could harm the economy by denying government services to millions of Americans and preventing 800,000 federal workers from working and earning a paycheck.

Check back with the Rundown blog Friday morning for the latest developments and the analysis of the Morning Line.

Update 9:30 p.m. ET | The press is awaiting remarks from President Obama after the conclusion of Thursday night’s budget meeting.

Sen. Reid’s communications director, Jon Summers, tweeted a short time ago:


WH meeting over. Not going to mics. Statement coming shortly.less than a minute ago via Twitter for BlackBerry® Favorite Retweet Reply

Update 7:10 p.m. | The White House meeting has been delayed by an hour and is now set to begin at 8 p.m. ET, a congressional aide told Reuters. No reason for the delay was given.

Update 6:58 p.m. | President Obama is set to meet for the third time in 24 hours with House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the deadline for a government shutdown ticks ever closer.

President Obama’s office put out a letter with some guidance on the coming days, should a shutdown occur.

Update 4:31 p.m. | Ed O’Keefe, who has been covering the budget negations for The Washington Post, broke down all the unknowns about a shutdown, telling the NewsHour:

We don’t know how much it will cost the government. We don’t know how long it will last. We don’t know yet what will and what won’t function. We don’t know the public reaction. Will people be upset? Will they not care? Will they see this as evidence that government could be much smaller than it is? And we don’t know what impact this have years from now.

O’Keefe, who will appear on Thursday’s NewsHour broadcast, also pointed out that the effects of a government shutdown would be felt far beyond the District of Columbia:

Only about 20 percent of federal workers live [around] Washington, D.C. The rest live in places like Indiana and Texas. People will be getting furloughed all across the country — people who are just caught in the crosshairs and powerless to change any of it.

Update 3:34 p.m. | House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and other Republicans spoke to reporters and chided President Obama and Democrats for not considering the House-passed measure to keep the government operating for a week, trying to steer the discussion to Defense Department funding while their bill includes controversial abortion and air-quality measures.

“The adult thing to do here is to keep the government functioning, it is to get our fiscal house in order” and pay the troops, Cantor said. “We have put onto the floor now a measure that would avert a government shutdown and would ensure that our troops are paid.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., released a statement taking a swipe at House Republicans for including those provisions:

I hope we won’t have a shutdown, because it would have a real effect on people and a real impact on the economy. It’s totally unnecessary, because there’s agreement on the need for significant cuts to the budget and the size of those cuts, but the House continues to demand that ideological policy provisions be included. Putting 800,000 people out of work to score political points on abortion is irresponsible.

Update 3 p.m. | With 33 hours to go before non-essential government services shut down, Boehner and Reid appeared side-by-side following a White House meeting and expressed frustration, yet more optimism Thursday afternoon than in separate news conferences earlier in the day.

Negotiators are expected to resume negotiations around 3 p.m., Boehner said.



Reid told reporters another meeting would occur at the White House around 7 p.m.

“We’re going to continue to work to get this done” or face “the bad day tomorrow, which is the government shutdown,” Reid said.

Boehner said both sides continue to work toward an agreement, but reasserted Republicans’ desires to cut federal spending in hopes of spurring more job creation. He said he urged President Obama to sign a Republican-led stopgap bill that cleared the House in a 247-181 vote Thursday afternoon, but the president and Reid both said the measure was a nonstarter because it included controversial policy measures.

Reid said he was disappointed a deal wasn’t secured, but was pleased that negotiations continue.

Update 2:50 p.m. | According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the major sticking points in budget negotiations is that Republican leaders want to include in a measure to fund the government provisions that restrict federal funds for abortion services.

At the start of the 112th Congress, Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., introduced an amendment to the original House funding bill that would eliminate all funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services and other women’s health care services.

On the floor of the House Thursday, Pence rolled the Republican argument for bigger spending cuts into the abortion issue while blaming Senate Democrats for bringing the government to a possible shutdown.

“Senate liberals,” Pence said, want to “borrow money from China to fund the greatest abortion provider in America.” Pence was speaking in support of the Republican one-week stopgap funding measure, which passed the House but top Democrats have said it’s a nonstarter.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., part of the Senate leadership, was visibly angry Thursday as she criticized the House Republicans for inserting an abortion-services provision into the budget negotiations.

“I am angry as a woman that we have come to this after weeks of negotiating on numbers,” Murray said.

She accused House Republicans of being willing to shut down the government if they aren’t able to deny women access to certain health services.

“Every woman … in the country ought to be saying (to Republicans), ‘what are you doing?’” she said.

Update 2 p.m. | While congressional leaders meet Thursday with President Obama at the White House, the House of Representatives is busy debating a last-minute continuing resolution that would cut $12 billion from federal spending and also fund the Department of Defense for the remainder of the fiscal year. It would also keep the government open for one more week.

Democrats oppose the measure, in part because it also includes a ban on funding for abortion services in the District of Columbia. President Obama has threatened to veto the measure.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., proposed an alternative measure on the House floor that would also keep the government open for one week at current funding levels and also fund the Department of Defense.

Hoyer said his measure would pass the Senate and that President Obama would sign it.
Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., who is managing the bill on the floor, refused to allow Hoyer to introduce it as a unanimous consent agreement, saying “He is asking that we accept the status quo.”

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., also refused Hoyer’s request to introduce this measure earlier Thursday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also said that the Republican one-week funding measure is also a nonstarter in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gestures during a news conference Thursday; SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty

Update 12:33 p.m. | Appearing with other Democratic senators, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., said early Thursday afternoon that the only things holding up an agreement are controversial policy provisions having to do with women’s health and clean air.

“Republicans during the last 10-11 hours have changed their tune completely,” he said.
Reid said the Tea Party is cheering for a government shutdown and pushing an “extreme agenda that has nothing to do with a funding bill.”

“We’re not going to solve in one night disagreements this country’s been having for four decades,” he said.

Reid said Senate Democrats would be willing to do another “clean” continuing resolution – one without major policy changes – to keep the government going as long as it’s moving toward a final resolution.

Democratic New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said the two sides have an agreement “in principle.”

“It would be a tragic mistake to force a government shutdown,” he said. “It would be doubly tragic if it’s because of issues not related to spending.”

Update 12:22 p.m. | President Obama’s office has issued a stark threat to veto the House’s one-week stopgap CR. Senate Majority Leader Reid has also called it unacceptable, making it clear that what the House is voting on later Thursday appears to be headed nowhere:

The Administration strongly opposes House passage of H.R. 1363, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2011, and for other purposes. As the President stated on April 5, 2011, if negotiations are making significant progress, the Administration would support a short-term, clean Continuing Resolution to allow for enactment of a final bill.

For the past several weeks, the Administration has worked diligently and in good faith to find common ground on the shared goal of cutting spending. After giving the Congress more time by signing short-term extensions into law, the President believes that we need to put politics aside and work out our differences for a bill that covers the rest of the fiscal year. This bill is a distraction from the real work that would bring us closer to a reasonable compromise for funding the remainder of Fiscal Year 2011 and avert a disruptive Federal Government shutdown that would put the Nation’s economic recovery in jeopardy. The Administration will continue to work with the Congress to arrive at a compromise that will fund the Government for the remainder of the fiscal year in a way that does not undermine future growth and job creation and that averts a costly Government shutdown. It is critical that the Congress send a final bill to the President’s desk that provides certainty to our men and women in military uniform, their families, small businesses, homeowners, taxpayers, and all Americans. H.R. 1363 simply delays that critical final outcome.

If presented with this bill, the President will veto it.

Original post, 11:50 a.m. ET Thursday | Speaking to the media late Thursday morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said there was no agreement on multiple factors in the budget negotiations.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call

“I think we were closer on a number last night than today,” he said.

Asked what he’d heard from the White House and Democrats Thursday morning that made him appear less optimistic than 12 hours before, Boehner didn’t get into specifics, saying he didn’t want to negotiate in front of the media.

“All of us in the room want this to be over,” Boehner said, adding that everyone involved in negotiations has certain policy and spending matter they feel strongly about.

Boehner said the House would vote on a temporary funding measure that would keep the government open another seven days, cut $12 billion in spending and maintain military spending for several more months “now that we are involved in a third war.”

“There’s no policy reason for the Senate to oppose this bill,” he said.

Top congressional Democrats were expected to speak to the media early Thursday afternoon.