Budget Deal Details: to Avert Government Shutdown, What Will Be Cut, and What Won't?

Lawmakers still negotiating specific cuts; DC politicans seethe over abortion.

April 11, 2011, 6:26 PM

April 11, 2011 -- Lost in all the excitement last Friday over lawmakers reaching a deal to avert a government shutdown was one major detail: no one knows precisely what's in the budget deal yet.

The top leaders on both sides of the aisle said they had agreed on $38.5 billion in spending cuts for the remaining six months of the fiscal year and also reached accord on a number of policy matters, like keeping federal funding for Planned Parenthood, but restricting the local government of Washington, D.C., from funding abortions itself.

That agreement between federal lawmakers led Washington mayor Vincent Gray and five city council members to protest. They were arrested -- albeit symbolically -- by Capitol Police Monday.

At the moment, only certain basic elements are known of the deal to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year.

Republicans succeeded in inserting certain provisions, such as a ban spending money to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the United States, and a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion in Washington. The GOP also won $1.5 billion in cuts to President Obama's planned national high-speed rail project.

Just as important as what's being cut from the budget is what is not cut in the end. While $450 million of federal funding for an extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane was cut in H.R. 1, it's unlikely that the engine -- which the President doesn't want and the Pentagon says it doesn't need -- will be cut at the end of the day.

Democrats, meanwhile, succeeded in keeping out of the deal controversial GOP provisions such as riders aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood and NPR and another gutting the EPA. Democrats also were pleased to settle on $17.8 billion in cuts to mandatory spending.

As part of the deal, Republicans will force Democrats to hold two politically-charged votes in the Senate in the coming days. The Senate will vote on defunding Planned Parenthood and on defunding the administration's health care bill, but since both measures will need 60 votes to advance in the Democrat-controlled upper chamber of Congress, neither is expected to pass.

"This agreement between Democrats and Republicans, on behalf of all Americans, is on a budget that invests in our future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history," President Obama said late Friday after the deal was announced at the 11th hour. "Like any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them. And I certainly did that."

"Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful," he said. "Programs people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances. But beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect those investments that will help America compete for new jobs -- investments in our kids' education and student loans; in clean energy and life-saving medical research. We protected the investments we need to win the future."

Government Shutdown Averted, But What Gets Cut?

Ultimately, now that the bipartisan budget deal has been struck, both houses of Congress must pass it by the time the latest short-term bill runs out at the end of Friday. While the bill seems destined to sail through the Senate, it could encounter some rough going in the House first, where prominent Republicans like Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., have already indicated that they plan to oppose it.

"I want to see the details. But from what I know, it sounds like John Boehner got a good deal. Probably not good enough for me to support it, but a good deal nonetheless," Pence told ABC's Christiane Amanpour Sunday on "This Week."

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking member of the House Budget committee, told Amanpour that he wanted to know the details of the bill before committing his vote.

"They're still sifting through the areas where they are going to make cuts. You can't find anybody today, actually, who knows exactly what cuts we're proposing until probably the end of the day today, maybe early next week. So I'm going to reserve judgment," Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said.

However, when all is said and done, it looks like the deal will ultimately pass, bringing an end to the great budget war of 2011… and providing a sign of what lies ahead in battles over the 2012 budget and increasing the debt ceiling later this year.