Government shutdown dodged: Congress finds deal - David Rogers
Capping a roller coaster week, House and Senate negotiators signed off Thursday night on a $1 trillion-plus, year-end spending bill, which the leadership will then rush to the floor as early as Friday to put to rest any threat of a government shutdown.
The White House — held at arm’s length until now — won final concessions including changes to address the funding shortfall at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, so important to President Barack Obama’s Wall Street reforms. And the final bill was also expected to strip out a Republican plan to reinstate Bush-era restrictions on travel to Cuba.
It was still not clear whether the giant bill has entirely escaped the payroll tax wars — the most politically charged of all the items on the year-end agenda — and one where a similar tense peace broke out Thursday.
For the first time, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his Republican counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, appeared to be engaged in civil conversations on the subject. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) lowered his voice too, promising that the House will be prepared to respond quickly to whatever compromise is offered on extending the tax cuts, together with unemployment benefits and Medicare payments to physicians.
“There is absolutely no interest on our part in trying to be strident about this,” Boehner told reporters. “We believe that it’s important to keep the government open, and we believe it’s important to finish the work on the payroll tax cut, unemployment insurance and the ‘doc fix.’”
Filling more than 1,200 pages, the giant appropriations bill is remarkable for its reach, covering the heart of the domestic budget, the Pentagon and foreign aid — plus tens of billions more related to the war in Afghanistan. Yet in recent days, it has been tossed about like a ragdoll among fighting children, even as Washington steamed toward a funding cutoff Friday night, when the latest stopgap resolution expires.