Budget Deal Reached Hours before Shutdown

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WASHINGTON -- The White House and congressional leaders have reached a last-minute deal to cut tens of billions of dollars in federal spending, avoiding a federal shutdown just over an hour before the midnight deadline Friday.

In a national address, President Barack Obama said the last-minute deal with congressional leaders happened because "Americans of different beliefs came together."

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

The deal will cut billions of dollars in spending through Sept. 30, the end of the budget year. The House and Senate rushed through a stopgap bill until the broader bill could be finalized.

Tough Negotiations

Throughout a day of intense budget negotiations hopes surged and faded that lawmakers would reach an agreement in time to avoid a government shutdown.

With a Friday midnight deadline looming, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle threw charges of irresponsibility during debates on the floor.

Democratic leaders accused GOP lawmakers of jeopardizing women's health by making it harder "for women to get cancer screenings."

"The deal is done. We're ready to keep government open. We're ready to make concessions, but we will not do it at the expense of women's health," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said.

What will a government shutdown mean politically for both parties? Dr. Charles Dunn, professor of government at Regent University, has more on CBN Newswatch, April 8, following CBN News Reporter John Jessup's report. Click play to watch.

The GOP, on the other hand, insisted spending cuts - not social issues - were getting in the way of an agreement.

Playing the Blame Game

"Between now and midnight tonight if nothing is done, the government would shut down, we will add more than $2 billion to that debt," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said.

"They are willing to throw women under the bus, even if it means they'll shut down the government," he said.

As the clock ticks toward midnight without a solid deal, the blame game gained momentum.
    
Some lawmakers even used props to point a finger at the Tea Party's impact on the budget negotiations, which include measures to defund Planned Parenthood and limit the Environmental Protection Agency.

"These riders are the straw that breaks the camel's back and cause the shut down," Sen. Charles Schumer, D- N.Y., charged.

Fiscal is Policy Debate
    
But conservative like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins argue that the policy debate and the fiscal debate are one and the same.

"This is about protecting a left-wing ideology that's drawing the American people into funding their agenda," he said.
    
For the average American at home, the prospect of a shutdown affecting the economy and the paychecks of nearly 1 million federal workers, makes Washington look foolish.

"They're arm wrestling and unfortunately people are being affected by it," one person said.

"They don't have your interest in mind or my interest at heart," one military wife charged. "They've got their own individual interests in mind, not the country."
 
She had some advice for decision makers in Washington.

"I think the politicians need not to get paid," she said. "If we don't get paid, the politicians don't need to get paid. Congress does not need to get paid."

Affecting Americans

No deal could soon mean about 800,000 federal workers, including U.S. military service members, will not receive paychecks.

"It is sad that some people will be out of work for a short period of time," said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council.

"Many of them, at least the government employees, will be paid after they are furloughed," he added. "However, there are people out of work right now because of the economy we are in."

"I guess they just want me to tell my 3-year-old daughter in the meantime that she can't eat, that she has to eat retroactively when I get paid again," government worker Lindsey Knapp said.
     
Knapp is a federal government employee who remembers all too well what happens when the government shuts down. She was serving in the military during the 21-day shutdown in 1995.

"The three week span over Christmas - these employees received no pay over that time," Knapp recalled. "The hospital actually started selling diapers and other essential items so people could get by."

Good for the Country?

Although a shutdown would be painful, some political observers say it may teach a lesson the country needs to learn.

"The government needs to shut down, I think, for people to understand that we are in serious crisis," McClusky said. "When the government shut down in 1995, two years later we had a balanced budget for the first time in decades."

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