Budget Compromise Happens, U.S. Government Still Exists But Is Still Mad Tho

After weeks of vicious bickering between Congress Democrats and Republicans about what’s worth spending the government’s money on, their latest stop-gap measure of a temporary budget expired at midnight last night. There was a real fear that if a long-term budget couldn’t be agreed upon, a “government shutdown” would have to occur – a suspension of federal government agencies that would have required the government to “furlough an estimated 800,000 government workers, close national parks, passport offices and other operations, and suspend an array of federal services” without the money to keep them running.

Republicans urged cutting funding to Planned Parenthood, largely because it provides abortions to some women, although (as many pointed out) abortions make up such a small part of Planned Parenthood’s work that in effect, the measure would mostly have cut access to contraception and treatment for STDs. Nor does any federal money directly fund abortion services SO IT’S TOTALLY IRRELEVANT.

Last night, Democrats and Republicans finally managed a compromise that didn’t please everyone, but that will enable the government to remain in business while they continue to bicker about the details of the agreement.

In the end, budget cuts totaled $39 billion, and many of the cuts Democrats had feared most did not come to pass. Some of the things that did not get cut include:

+ Planned Parenthood will remain funded in the compromise, although there will be a separate vote about it later in the Senate. (It is not expected to be defunded in that vote either.)

+ NPR. GOP threats to defund public radio were dropped.

+ The Affordable Care Act. Obama’s health care law will remain funded, although there will also be a separate vote on it in the Senate – especially in light of the fact that judges earlier this year found part of it unconstitutional, there may well end up being changes to the law.

+ The EPA. The Environmental Protection Agency will remain funded to regulate the level of greenhouse gases.

+ The FCC. A provision from the Republicans that would have barred funding for the FCC to implement “net neutrality” rules was dropped.

At least one new provision was created – a school voucher system for low-income children of the District of Columbia. Just like any compromise, though, everyone had to give something up. Some things were bills that people had worked very hard for and that would have helped a lot of people, and they were cut anyways. Some of the things for which funding was banned:

+ Funding to transfer prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention center to the US mainland.

+ The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created last year and which Republicans have been widely critical of, will now have to undergo an annual audit on its use of funding.

+ Funding for abortions in the District of Columbia will be banned. (If you are confused by this because federal funding for abortions was already banned in general, you are not alone.)

Free Choice Vouchers. This was the bill sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, and it would have helped people for whom health insurance coverage costs between 8 and 9.8% of their annual income by letting them take their employer’s health insurance contribution to an insurance provider that costs less.

+ In the new compromise, Obama is prohibited from additional funding for the IRS, which could affect the agency’s ability to actually enforce the healthcare law. The compromise also calls for several new studies on the effectiveness of the health care law – its “impact on premiums, the waivers the administration has given to limited-benefit health plans, the comparative effectiveness research funds in the law and the 2009 stimulus package, and the cost of the contractors who have been hired to implement the law.” Republicans hope that they can eventually defeat it if it’s proven to be less effective than Democrats had hoped.

Although Democrats were able to protect many of the federal and cultural institutions that they value most, this was still a good day for Speaker of the House John Boehner. Although he’s been under heavy criticism from conservatives and especially the Tea Party for not pushing as hard as they wanted on budget cuts, although one could argue that the Tea Party’s expectations in this regard were less than reasonable. Now, however, Boehner seems to have won them and the conservatives of America back as a group, and is being hailed as the ‘winner’ of the budget fracas.

Fox News headlines on the subject include “Who Won The Shutdown Showdown? It Wasn’t Even Close” as well as “How He Did It: Three Keys To Boehner’s Budget Victory”. If you are interested in hearing a socially liberal interpretation of what “victory” for Boehner means for the rest of the country, try Melissa’s post at Shakesville: “Not only is the US government pursuing an austerity strategy, which is a terrible idea in every conceivable way, and will fail to stimulate growth while simultaneously creating a greater strain on underfunded social programs, but this “success” has come at the expense of women’s reproductive rights.”

Boehner has already become the face of the Republicans of Congress and of the Republican House’s animosity towards the Senate and President, and it will be interesting to see how his ‘budget victory’ affects his standing and his goals for the new fiscal year. In the coverage of the compromise, he is set against Harry Reid, each of them described as champions of their respective parties, with Boehner’s priority being reduced government spending and Reid’s being access to healthcare, especially for women. (Reid claimed that the stall in closing the deal came from Boehner’s insistence on attacking the Title X program, which provides family planning services for low-income women, while Boehner claimed the issue was ‘spending levels.’)

The bill isn’t in effect yet; ironically, the government is still actually using one more ’emergency stop-gap measure’ to keep things going while they work out the details of the new agreement. Not everyone supports or endorses the compromise; a few Republicans have said they will vote against it “lacks many of the important bipartisan policy provisions my colleagues and I supported: stopping Obamacare, rolling back the job-killing EPA and defunding Planned Parenthood,” as Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas says. Nancy Pelosi has stopped short of endorsing the bill also, saying only that “House Democrats look forward to reviewing the components of the final funding measure.” Although there will be more voting in Congress on the subject of how to spend the government’s money, it seems unlikely that these provisions will change significantly.

The financial compromise is welcome, and it’s comforting not only that the government will have the money to keep running, but that the people who are in charge were able to on some level put the continued function of our nation’s leadership above their personal priorities. The conflicting stories already being told the next day about the process of compromise, however, tell a different and more unsettling story. When one side uses the language of “coming together” and the other is still using the language of “showdowns” and “victory,” it raises more questions than answers on what the continued functioning of the government is going to look like.

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Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

Rachel has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. Thanks for writing this! American politics confuses me and sometimes I only understand what’s happing after I’ve read your articles.

  2. Good article, Rachel! I think what a big part of it comes down to is that, generally, Democrats tend to think of compromise as a good thing and as something to work towards, where as Republicans seem to think of it as an inherent weakness. W/r/t what you were talking about with the one sided language, this seems to be the case. (I hope this made sense, I’m not very good at writing about my thoughts on politics, haha)

  3. This Planned Parenthood controversy is so frustrating. I’m totally scared for what this means for the upcoming 2012 budget and elections. I hate how the GOP is celebrating with a “we chose our battles and we have a bigger fight coming” story line that the media is just eating up.
    Thanks for the great article, you broke it down really well.

  4. This was v helpful, and I honestly have no idea how you did it, Rachel. Any conversations about the budget usually induce a deep and neverending rage in me. Mainly becuase the financial industry, aka THE FUCKERS WHO RUINED EVERYTHING IN THE FIRST PLACE, have faced no tangible consequences while NPR and PP almost lost the little funding they do have due in no small part to COMPLETE MISINFORMATION AND IDIOCY on the part of the GOP.

    But yeah. Thanks!

  5. Does anyone know what happened with the proposed defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities? I haven’t heard much about it, and it really worried me since those proposed cuts have not received as much attention or controversy as the ones to Planned Parenthood, NPR and the EPA did. But as a music major and professional composer, getting rid of the NEA would really hurt my future career. Classical music in general really needs that funding, but contemporary classical music in particular, which does not have the elderly, wealthy donor base a lot of more traditional classical organizations get.

  6. As a resident of DC I can explain the DC abortion provision and why it’s BS. The new measure forbids the District to use *its own money* (funded by taxes from its own citizens) to fund abortions for low income women. It’s just another example of those who claim they want limited federal government and more local sovereignty treating the District and its citizens as their political playthings.

  7. I think the Dems should’ve let a shutdown happen. It would appear Repubs gave up their stupid demands to deny Planned Parenthood funding, but I think a shutdown could’ve helped Obama. If Karl Rove’s warning to the GOP was sincere and factually accurate, a government shutdown in the 90s helped Clinton surge back from a pretty low approval rating. (I should really look this up myself instead of believing Karl Rove.) But if history repeats itself, and if Obama can emerge being a leader ready for action, it could’ve helped us secure the White House since the Senate is clinging on to dear life.

    Notice how the Republicans drew a line in the sand on purely political issues. Planned Parenthood can’t use it’s federal funding for abortions — fact. But Planned Parenthood does fund abortions on its own, so it’s clearly evil. NPR has a view point that is actually thoughtful, intelligent, insightful and, most of all, firmly based in reality, so of course Republicans hate it. And of course they want to get rid of the EPA. Because after all, protecting coal miners from black lung disease or preventing families from not living through another Love Canal is clearly getting in the way of businesses reaping millions and millions of dollars, right? Republicans are such awful people. Mitch McConnell has his own reserved parking space in hell.

    As for a shutdown, it sounds scary but it wouldn’t matter a huge deal. For a few days, there might be some delays on things, but so what? After a month, that’d be putting a lot of things to a halt. But all my friends that work for the federal government in D.C. would’ve gotten a free vacation essentially. They don’t go in to work, but soon as a budget is passed they are entitled to retroactive pay. It sounds wonky, but you have to think about the repercussions if they didn’t retroactively pay these people. The government would just start shutting down once a month to save money. Hmm, then again, that doesn’t sound so bad…

    • I don’t know, I think it’s easy for some of us to say that a govt. shutdown wouldn’t matter that much if just for a few days, but there are some people who are govt. workers who are not well-off and the loss of a few days’ work can make a huge difference.

      Or maybe I’m just biased because I went to D.C. today and had a bangin’ time at the Museum of Natural History, which wouldn’t have been possible if the govt. was shutdown (as all the Smithsonian museums would have been closed).

    • Um excuse me I am a Republican and am not an “awful person” thanks though. I am pro- life and do not agree with everything other Republicans represent but really that stereotype was hurtful. It’s not like I just go around saying man democrats idiots. It’s not true, there are some incredibly intelligent democrats and republicans, politics make everyone dumb. Bottom line.

      • When the Republican party stops trying to shit all over gay people and the middle class, I will stop thinking they are awful. Note, I was and am talking about Republican lawmakers. I honestly think a large contingent of American people who vote Republican don’t really understand what Republicans do in Congress and vote on wedge issues or misconceptions, like poor people who have been duped into believing Bush’s tax cuts will help them more than Obama’s. I noticed you pointed out you are pro-life in saying that you are a Republican, as if every pro-life person needs to be a Republican. You can be a pro-life Democrat. Or a pro-life Independent. The vast majority of Democrats up for re-election this year in the Senate are pro-life. Pro-life does not = GOP. And yeah, I think people like Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Roy Blunt, David Vitter, John Boehner etc. etc. are awful people. Sorry.

  8. This Tea Party group that my (psycho) aunt is a part of is starting to advocate the elimination or relaxing of child labor laws. Seriously. This country fucking terrifies me and I cannot wait to leave.

  9. No one talks about the deficit the republicans are trying to reduce. Are all you democrats that stupid? The PP, EPA, NPR riders were just examples of areas where the federal government either has no business involving itself or has done such a terrible job it should be eliminated. Next should come real reform…eliminate the department of education and cut all federal departments by at least 10%. Enact the social security reforms being proposed by the “evil” republicans and we may get some progress.

    • blah blah blah conservative talking point blah blah blah, try coming up with something original and supported by reality

    • Oh, you mean the deficit that our last Republican president and congress ran up? That deficit?

    • Oooh! Or, or, or (and I know this is a really crazy, off-the-wall idea) the republicans could reduce the deficit by giving up their demands for additional tax breaks for insanely rich people who don’t actually need them. *headdesk*

    • If the Republicans really cared about cutting the deficit, they’d make a huge cut to all our unnecessary defense spending. Because you know what we really don’t need? Another nuclear weapon. Also, as others have pointed out, tax cuts for the last people in the world who need tax cuts.

      PP, EPA and NPR are just drops in the bucket compared to if we cut all that stuff. The Republicans know this and the truth is they don’t care about cutting spending, they’re just using the deficit as an excuse to axe programs they’ve never liked.

      Time to start really looking at these issues closely instead of just believing everything Glenn Beck tells you, maybe? Because, look, you’re shooting yourself in the foot until you do.

      • Kay well the Republicans do care about cutting the deficit and that is obvious through all of their efforts. With a completely democratic congress and senate, and president, not much of the Republican side gets represented as they can’t do anything. Oh screw you Obama? No. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a group effort here not a one sided political party BS pile of nonesense

        • If they’re so serious about cutting the deficit why don’t they propose raising taxes, particularly on the top 1%? They don’t do that, instead they give the top 1% tax cuts, which increase the deficit. Also, Republican’s have control of the House, so there isn’t a completely Democratic Congress and Senate (Congress = House + Senate).

        • Mackenzie, the deficit reached a record high when Bush was in office. The GOP didn’t care about the deficit until Democrats were in power and they could make it a political issue. Furthermore, Obama inherited a recession and was forced to spend to try to stimulate the economy. When Republicans controlled everything under Bush, what was their excuse for record deficits? Republicans care so much about the deficit that they won’t give the few richest elites of the country a small tax increase that would make no dent to those people, but help the government’s revenues greatly. Republicans don’t give a shit about the deficit.

          To be perfectly honest, anytime one party is in control, things go nuts. A government works best when the three branches aren’t controlled by one party. Then no one can be like kids in a candy store.

      • Holler g-friend. If the GOP really wanted to cut spending, they would cut the trillions of dollars we are spending on the military: unneeded weapons, never-ending wars, etc. Defense spending makes up more than 50% of the federal budget… human resources, which are being attacked, make up only 30%. bjsfolly and mackenzie… BULLSHIT


  10. a shutdown would’ve been horrible. they were going to cut the military’s pay and expect us to keep working. I know blah blah we fight for freedom but we make so little as it is and there are a ton of us that have families that depend on that paycheck every first and fifteenth. our paychecks were even showing that we were only going to get paid up until april 7th, but now that the shutdown isn’t happening we’ll get the rest. we would’ve gotten backpay, but bills and kids don’t accept “we’ll pay for it later” you know?

  11. I feel bad for Boehner. I mean, everyone hates him, and it’s so easy to make fun of his name. There’s nothing funny about Pelosi, but BONER? Really. Poor guy.

  12. It’s not shutdown yet….but this budget is only going to last until the end of this year. So what’s going to happen when they have to hammer out the budget for 2012?

    • Pretty much the same thing will happen. Obama and the Democrats will start from a compromise position, then compromise some more, and then basically give in to all the austerity bullshit that Republicans want.

  13. I just wanted to let your readers know that you are misleading them by stating that changes to the health care bill are likely because “a judge found it unconstitiounal”. Well yeah thats true but you dont mention that 3 judges found it WAS constitiuioinal. The point is the Supreme Court will decide. Just dont imply that there is concensus that the bill is unconstitutional when there isnt. Facts are good, bias is not.

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