Waiting until the final hour before the latest temporary funding bill expired forcing a partial shutdown of federal government operations, congressional leaders reached agreement on a budget deal for the remainder of fiscal year 2011. The agreement reached resulted in $39 billion of budget cuts and was $79 billion less than the budget requests presented by President Obama.
Once the deal was reached, Congress immediately passed a temporary funding measure for one week to allow time to pass the final budget. Votes first in the House of Representatives and then by the Senate are expected to occur this week.
Republican leaders had pushed for $61 billion in additional cuts, but accepted the $39 billion, or 4% of the 1.049 trillion budget approved, as palatable to resolve a long overdue budget. The accord, assuming it is approved by Congress, will set the stage for continued debate as Congress and the administration turn their attention to the next fiscal year budget for 2012.
In the deal, Republican-backed efforts to cut-off funding for the new health care law, Planned Parenthood Federal of America and National Public Radio were dropped in exchange for Democrats agreeing to hold individual up or down votes on the issues in the Senate.
The budget agreement also includes a mandate requiring an annual audit of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, addressing concerns that the new bureau created by the Dodd-Frank Act lacked appropriate financial oversight by Congress.
As the debate turns to the 2012 budget, the rhetoric will be elevated as different approaches and demands are laid out to address spending levels and long term deficits faced by the federal government. As more sweeping cuts are discussed, it is likely that entitlement programs, such as Social Security and Medicare will be thrown into the middle of the debate.