Stopgap Budget Deal May Avert Government Shutdown

Democrats may be willing to agree to a deal that includes $4 billion in cuts.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2011— -- With the federal government set to shut down on Friday without new funding, Democrats appear willing to go along with a two-week stopgap budget deal that includes $4 billion in new cuts, averting a shutdown.

In excerpts from a speech to be delivered tonight to the National Association of Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, House Speaker John Boehner says in the 2012 budget he wants to take on cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, adding a jab at the president's own 2012 budget plan.

"To not address entitlement programs, as is the case with the budget the president has put forward, would be an economic and moral failure," Boehner says. "By acting now, we can fulfill the mission of health and retirement security for all Americans without making changes for those in or near retirement. And we can keep the promises we have made to our children."

But first Congress needs to deal with the remainder of 2011. The compromise bill proposed by House Republicans includes $1.2 billion in spending cuts to education, transportation and other programs President Obama proposed cutting in the 2012 budget that begins in October, plus $2.7 billion in congressional earmarks -- spending directed to special projects, often in the sponsoring member's district -- that both parties have renounced.

The House is expected to vote on Tuesday. The Senate would take up the bill after that.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who oversaw the last government shutdown in 1995, argues in an article in The Washington Post today that, contrary to public opinion, that shutdown was a boon both to the nation and the GOP.

"While the shutdown produced some short-term pain, it set the stage for a budget deal in 1996 that led to the largest drop in federal discretionary spending since 1969," Gingrich writes.

There appears to be little appetite for a shutdown on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Obama, in his weekly address, urged both parties to avoid "gridlock" and asked them to find common ground.

"For the sake of our people and our economy, we cannot allow gridlock to prevail," the president said. "Both Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate have said they believe it's important to keep the government running while we work together on a plan to reduce our long-term deficit."

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the Republican vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee, went further, saying, "We are more likely to be hit by an asteroid than shutting down the government."