Political Highlights: President Obama Answers Questions @ Facebook Townhall


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


The President at a town hall meeting at Facebook HQ

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 4/20/11


  • Obama and Facebook in Warm Embrace: He introduced himself as “the guy who got Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.” “I’m very proud of that,” President Obama quipped as he walked onto a stage at Facebook headquarters on Wednesday, and sat next to Mr. Zuckerberg. Both men then proceeded to take off their jackets. About an hour later, Mr. Obama, whose visit here forced Silicon Valley types to button down a bit, left with a far more casual item of clothing that has become de rigueur in some tech circles: a hoodie given to him by Mr. Zuckerberg. Of course, the Facebook logo was printed on it.
    In the interim, Mr. Obama conducted a town-hall-style meeting at Facebook, and on Facebook, in front of a largely friendly audience. He took questions from company employees in a cavernous room turned into auditorium and from Facebook users over the social networking service, with Mr. Zuckerberg acting as moderator.
    Mr. Obama delivered sharp attacks against Paul Ryan, the Republican congressman from Wisconsin who drafted a budget proposal heavy on spending cuts and tax cuts, and talked about the economy, health care, education and immigration reform. Throughout the largely staged event, Mr. Obama and Mr. Zuckerberg appeared almost chummy with each other…. – NYT, 4-20-11
  • Obama likes Facebook. Facebook likes Obama: President Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have updated their Facebook status: They are in a relationship.
    “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” the Facebook founder confessed to the crowd at the start of Wednesday’s town hall meeting his company arranged with the White House. “We have the president of the United States here!”….
    Obama’s appearance in Palo Alto lent the presidential seal to the company, a sign that, after its sensational rise, it is being embraced by Washington as a major corporate player. In return, Facebook’s imprimatur helps Obama restore his luster among young voters as he begins his reelection campaign.
    A Harvard University poll released last month found that 18- to 29-year-olds say they are more likely to vote for Obama than a Republican by 38 percent to 25 percent. That’s well short of 2008 levels, when he won the 18-29 demographic by 34 percentage points.
    The Facebook-inspired movie “The Social Network” was playing on Air Force One as Obama flew to California Wednesday. “As you all know, dating back to the president’s first campaign for the presidency there’s a great focus on social media,” White House press secretary Jay Carney reminded reporters aboard.
    One asked if the appearance at Facebook headquarters could “be construed as an effort to also promote Facebook.” “Absolutely not,” Carney said, in an answer that was itself something of a Facebook promotion. “I mean, Facebook has half a billion users. . . More people than you can possibly imagine.”
    Of those 500 million users, just under 45,000 were “attending” Obama’s town hall at the scheduled start time. Participation may have been suppressed by the requirement that you had to click the button saying you “like” the White House.
    “Did you know you have to ‘like’ the White House page to attend?” one user posted on the town hall page. “I have a big problem with liking anything from this White House never mind the fact that they would then have a record that we ‘liked’ them.”
    But at Facebook’s headquarters, there was no hesitation about liking Obama. “Since he’s one of the most popular people on Facebook with 19 million ‘likes,’ we feel like he’s coming home,” said Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer. “So, welcome home, Mr. President.” Sanberg added, playfully: “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president.”…. – WaPo, 4-20-11
  • Obama, Before Facebook Crowd, Presses G.O.P. on Budget: President Obama on Wednesday opened a Western front in his war against House Republicans’ budget, telling an appreciative audience at Facebook headquarters here that the plan is radical, short-sighted and would reduce annual federal deficits at the expense of the nation’s poor and powerless. In a town-hall-style forum with the 26-year-old Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, Mr. Obama seized on a question about the House-passed budget to mount a long, withering indictment. The questioner, an employee of the social networking company, noted that some news media accounts suggested that the sponsor of the Republican budget, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, is “bold and brave” for proposing the deep spending cuts.
    “The Republican budget that was put forward I would say is fairly radical,” Mr. Obama said. “And I wouldn’t call it particularly courageous.” He added: “I do think Mr. Ryan is sincere. I think he’s a patriot. I think he wants to solve a real problem, which is our long-term deficit. But I think that what he and the other Republicans in the House of Representatives also want to do is change our social compact in a pretty fundamental way.”
    “Nothing is easier,” Mr. Obama said, “than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless and don’t have lobbyists or don’t have clout.”… – NYT, 4-20-11
  • U.S. Finances Are ‘Unsustainable,’ Obama Says at Facebook Town Hall Event: President Barack Obama, on a cross- country trip to sell his deficit reduction plan, said yesterday that the nation’s finances are “unsustainable.” At a campaign-style town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook Inc., Obama described the House Republicans’ budget plan as “fairly radical” and said members of both political parties in Washington need to work together to start reducing the federal deficit in a “balanced way.” “We have an unsustainable situation,” he said. “We face a critical time where we are going to have to make some decisions — how do we bring down the debt in the short term, and how do we bring down the debt over the long term?”…. – Bloomberg, 4-20-11
  • President Obama talks tech, budget, deficit at Facebook: President Barack Obama expanded on his fiscal message Wednesday at a virtual town hall meeting at Facebook’s headquarters here. In what felt like a campaign stop, the one-hour event, which was streamed live on the White House’s Facebook page, Obama discussed the budget deficit, fiscal responsibility, investments in technology, health-care reform, the housing crisis and the power of social media.
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up, Obama said. “We could slip back into a recession.”… – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • Obama pokes fun at Facebook’s Zuckerberg: President Obama began his “town hall” event at Facebook’s offices on Wednesday with an anecdote….. That kicked off a very cordial hour-long conversation and seemed to loosen up the sometimes chilly technology prodigy. Zuckerberg stumbled during his opening remarks. “Sorry, I’m kind of nervous,” he said after a flub in his introduction. For Obama, Wednesday was a chance to connect with both Silicon Valley influencers and young people in one poke. Throughout his answers, Obama related his typical talking points — federal deficit, education, healthcare and immigration — to those two groups…. – CNN, 4-20-11
  • Obama rips GOP budget plan at Facebook event: Hoping to rekindle excitement among younger voters, President Obama spoke at a town hall-style meeting hosted by Facebook on Wednesday and asked for help in beating back Republican budget proposals that he denigrated as “radical.”
    Obama sat on a stage next to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who served as moderator and funneled largely friendly questions to a president who makes extensive use of social media in reaching out to voters. Obama took credit for Zuckerberg’s attempt to clean up for the occasion. The 26-year-old billionaire swapped his signature hoodie for a jacket and tie. “My name is Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie,” he said.
    Taking questions submitted through Facebook and from an audience of company employees, Obama advised listeners not to get “frustrated’’ by protracted debates in Washington. He conceded that some of his 2008 voters might be asking why progress on many issues hasn’t come sooner. But he urged them not to give up on his agenda. “I know that some of you who might have been involved in the campaign or been energized back in 2008, you’re frustrated that, gosh, it didn’t get done fast enough and it seems like everybody’s bickering all the time,” he said. “Just remember that we’ve been through tougher times before.”… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Obama seeks friends for deficit-reduction plan at Facebook: President Obama on Wednesday ramped up his criticism of the Republican Party’s budget proposal, calling it “radical” and “not courageous” in a town hall meeting at the headquarters of Facebook. To a generally friendly audience at the social networking Web site’s sprawling corporate campus, the president outlined how his plan to reduce the deficit through spending cuts and raising taxes on the rich would be done without sacrificing what he described as key social safety nets.
    Obama shared the stage with Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who asked questions of his own before allowing a Facebook employee to pose one. Zuckerberg then read questions submitted by users of Facebook who watched the event through a live online stream. The president’s at-times combative answers contrasted with the jocular mood of the event. “Even though it’s Facebook, no poking the president,” chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg joked, referring to a Facebook feature. When Obama said wealthy taxpayers such as Zuckerberg and himself should pay their share, the youthful Facebook CEO quipped, “I’m cool with that,” to an outburst of laughter and applause from the audience of high-tech executives, Democratic politicians and Facebook employees… – LAT, 4-20-11
  • Facebook members find Obama event ‘not great’: Despite the promise that President Obama’s first Facebook town hall would open a new level of two-way communication with his constituents, social-networking technology didn’t add much to the conversation.
    Obama answered just eight questions during Wednesday’s hour-long session at Facebook’s secondary headquarters building in Palo Alto, an event that was streamed on the Facebook Live video page.
    But some of those questions came from Facebook employees who won a company lottery for the chance to sit in the live audience. That left hundreds of questions posted on the event’s Facebook wall unanswered…. – San Francisco Chronicle, 4-20-11


President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg,
the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on

Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times President Obama with a sweatshirt given to him by Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, at a townhall meeting in Palo Alto, Calif., on Wednesday.

  • Obama at Facebook. Townhall transcript REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT A FACEBOOK TOWN HALL Facebook Headquarters Palo Alto, California 1:58 P.M. PDT: THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you so much, Facebook, for hosting this, first of all. (Applause.) My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie. (Applause.) Thank you. (Laughter.) I’m very proud of that. (Laughter.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Second time.
    THE PRESIDENT: I know. (Laughter.) I will say — and I hate to tell stories on Mark, but the first time we had dinner together and he wore this jacket and tie, I’d say halfway through dinner he’s starting to sweat a little bit. It’s really uncomfortable for him. So I helped him out of his jacket. (Laughter.) And in fact, if you’d like, Mark, we can take our jackets off. (Applause.)
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: That’s good.
    THE PRESIDENT: Woo, that’s better, isn’t it?
    MR. ZUCKERBERG: Yes, but you’re a lot better at this stuff than me. (Laughter.)
    THE PRESIDENT: So, first of all, I just want to say thank you to all of you for taking the time — not only people who are here in the audience, but also folks all over the country and some around the world who are watching this town hall.
    The main reason we wanted to do this is, first of all, because more and more people, especially young people, are getting their information through different media. And obviously what all of you have built together is helping to revolutionize how people get information, how they process information, how they’re connecting with each other.
    And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, were in a dialogue. So I love doing town hall meetings. This format and this company I think is an ideal means for us to be able to carry on this conversation.
    And as Mark mentioned, obviously we’re having a very serious debate right now about the future direction of our country. We are living through as tumultuous a time as certainly I’ve seen in my lifetime. Admittedly, my lifetime is a lot longer than most of yours so far. This is a pretty young crowd. But we’re seeing, domestically, a whole series of challenges, starting with the worst recession we’ve had since the Great Depression. We’re just now coming out of it. We’ve got all sorts of disruptions, technological disruptions that are taking place, most of which hold the promise of making our lives a lot better, but also mean that there are a lot of adjustments that people are having to make throughout the economy.
    We still have a very high unemployment rate that is starting to come down, but there are an awful lot of people who are being challenged out there, day in, day out, worrying about whether they can pay the bills, whether they can keep their home.
    Internationally, we’re seeing the sorts of changes that we haven’t seen in a generation. We’ve got certain challenges like energy and climate change that no one nation can solve but we’re going to have to solve together. And we don’t yet have all the institutions that are in place in order to do that.
    But what makes me incredibly optimistic — and that’s why being here at Facebook is so exciting for me — is that at every juncture in our history, whenever we face challenges like this, whether it’s been the shift from a agricultural age to a industrial age, or whether it was facing the challenges of the Cold War, or trying to figure out how we make this country more fair and more inclusive, at every juncture we’ve always been able to adapt. We’ve been able to change and we’ve been able to get ahead of the curve. And that’s true today as well, and you guys are at the cutting edge of what’s happening.
    And so I’m going to be interested in talking to all of you about why this debate that we’re having around debt and our deficits is so important, because it’s going to help determine whether we can invest in our future and basic research and innovation and infrastructure that will allow us to compete in the 21st century and still preserve a safety net for the most vulnerable among us.
    But I’m also going to want to share ideas with you about how we can make our democracy work better and our politics work better — because I don’t think there’s a problem out there that we can’t solve if we decide that we’re going to solve it together.
    And for that, I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak to you. And instead of just giving a lot of long speeches I want to make sure that we’ve got time for as many questions as possible.
    So, Mark, I understand you got the first one…. – Chicago Sun-Times, 4-20-11
  • Notable quotes from President Obama’s Facebook visit: “My name is Barack Obama, and I’m the first guy to get Mark Zuckerberg to wear a jacket and tie.”
    “What makes me incredible optimistic is that at every juncture in our history, we’ve always been able to adapt.”
    “The housing market is the biggest drag on the economy.”
    “If we don’t have a serious (plan) to attack the deficit, we will have an even bigger problem” of investors pulling back when the economy starts to perk up.
    “Immigration in this country has always been complicated. We are a nation of immigrants and laws. And sometimes the laws are unfair.”
    “If we bring high-skilled immigants to come here, why wouldn’t we want them to stay? They are job generators. We don’t want them starting an Intel in China or France. We want them starting them here.”
    “Our education system has to do a better job of math and science education for women, Hispanics and blacks.”
    “I want people to think of the next big Internet breakthrough as the next moon launch.”
    “We have to lift our game up for the Internet, math and science.”…. – USA Today, 4-20-11
  • The President’s Facebook Town Hall: Budgets, Values, Engagement: And historically, part of what makes for a healthy democracy, what is good politics, is when you’ve got citizens who are informed, who are engaged. And what Facebook allows us to do is make sure this isn’t just a one-way conversation; makes sure that not only am I speaking to you but you’re also speaking back and we’re in a conversation, we’re in a dialogue.
    Q Hi, Mr. President. Thank you so much for joining us today. I am originally from Detroit, Michigan, and now I’m out here working at Facebook. So my question for you kind of builds on some of the things we were just talking about. At the beginning of your term you spent a lot of time talking about job creation and the road to economic recovery, and one of the ways to do that would be substantially increasing federal investments in various areas as a way to fill the void left from consumer spending. Since then, we’ve seen the conversation shift from that of job creation and economic recovery to that of spending cuts and the deficit. So I would love to know your thoughts on how you’re going to balance these two going forward, or even potentially shift the conversation back.
    THE PRESIDENT: Well, you’re exactly right that when I first came into office our number-one job was preventing us from getting into another Great Depression. And that was what the Recovery Act was all about. So we helped states make sure that they could minimize some of the layoffs and some of the difficult budget choices that they faced. We made sure that we had infrastructure spending all around the country. And, in fact, we made the biggest investment in infrastructure since Dwight Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway System.
    We made the largest investment in history in clean energy research, and it’s really paying off. For example, when I came into office, we had about 2 percent of the advanced battery manufacturing here in America. And as everybody here knows, what’s really holding us back from my goal of a million electric vehicles on the road is that battery technology is still tough. It’s clunky; it’s heavy; it’s expensive. And if we can make significant improvements in battery technology then I think the opportunities for electric vehicles, alternative vehicles that are much cheaper — our opportunities are limitless.
    So those were all investments that we made in the first two years. Now, the economy is now growing. It’s not growing quite as fast as we would like, because after a financial crisis, typically there’s a bigger drag on the economy for a longer period of time. But it is growing. And over the last year and a half we’ve seen almost 2 million jobs created in the private sector.
    Because this recession came at a time when we were already deeply in debt and it made the debt worse, if we don’t have a serious plan to tackle the debt and the deficit, that could actually end up being a bigger drag on the economy than anything else. If the markets start feeling that we’re not serious about the problem, and if you start seeing investors feel uncertain about the future, then they could pull back right at the time when the economy is taking off.
    So you’re right that it’s tricky. Folks around here are used to the hills in San Francisco, and you’ve driven — I don’t know if they still have clutch cars around here. Anybody every driven a clutch car? (Laughter.) I mean, you got to sort of tap and — well, that’s sort of what we faced in terms of the economy, right? We got to hit the accelerator, but we’ve got to also make sure that we don’t gun it; we can’t let the car slip backwards. And so what we’re trying to do then is put together a debt and deficit plan that doesn’t slash spending so drastically that we can’t still make investments in education, that we can’t still make investments in infrastructure — all of which would help the economy grow.
    In December, we passed a targeted tax cut for business investment, as well as the payroll tax that has a stimulus effect that helps to grow the economy. We can do those things and still grow the economy while having a plan in place to reduce the deficit, first by 2015, and then over the long term. So I think we can do both, but it does require the balanced approach that I was talking about.
    If all we’re doing is spending cuts and we’re not discriminating about it, if we’re using a machete instead of a scalpel and we’re cutting out things that create jobs, then the deficit could actually get worse because we could slip back into another recession.
    And obviously for folks in Detroit, where you’re from, they know that our investments can make a difference because we essentially saved the U.S. auto industry. We now have three auto companies here in America that are all turning a profit. G.M. just announced that it’s hiring back all of the workers that it was planning to lay off. And we did so, by the way, at the same time as we were able to increase fuel efficiency standards on cars for the first time in 30 years. So it can be done, but it takes a balanced approach. (Applause.)… – WH, 4-20-11

Phones Out at Facebook Town Hall

Members of the audience take pictures as President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting moderated by CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. April 20, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Budget Showdown 2011: Obama, Boehner and Reid Strike Last Minute Budget Deal — Averting Government Shutdown with 38 Billion in Cuts


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


President Barack Obama makes a statement on the budget agreement
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/8/11


  • Federal Budget (2011) — Government Shutdown AvertedNYT
  • Details of the Bipartisan Budget Deal: Last night, President Obama announced that the federal government will remain open for business because Americans from different beliefs came together, put politics aside, and met the expectations of the American people. Today, small businesses will no longer worry or have to wait on a loan to open or expand their business, families will receive the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of government workers, including our brave men and women in uniform, will continue to receive paychecks on time.
    This deal cuts spending by $78.5 billion from the President’s FY 2011 Budget request — the largest annual spending cut in our history. These are real cuts that will save taxpayers money and have a real impact. Many will be painful, and are to programs that we support, but the fiscal situation is such that we have to act…. – WH, 4-9-11
  • Congress reaches an 11th-hour budget deal, still must vote to avoid shutdown: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have reached an agreement to fund the federal government for the next five months, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office announced Friday night. The deal will include $39 billion in spending cuts and will drop language related to Planned Parenthood. Lawmakers were still working to approve a short-term stopgap funding bill before midnight to give them time to craft the longer-term legislation.
  • Boehner Says Budget Deal Said to Be Reached to Avoid Government Shutdown: Lawmakers reached a deal just minutes before a deadline that would have shuttered federal facilities and furloughed thousands of workers, House Speaker John A. Boehner said.
    Hours from a government shutdown, leaders of the House and Senate offered dramatically different reasons for a budget stalemate and expressed little hope that the two sides would reach an agreement by midnight…. – NYT, 4-8-11


  • Budget fight shows Washington still broken: As the midnight Friday deadline loomed for a possible government shutdown, and politicians continued their rhetorical war of words, a larger message went out to the rest of the country: Washington is still broken. The deal announced less than 90 minutes before the deadline may produce a sense of relief that the government will remain open. But given the tortured negotiations and the claims and counterclaims that were traded all day, the public is likely to find fault with both political parties.
    Public sentiment has been clear for weeks. Overall, the country prefers compromise to confrontation, stalemate and shutdown, according to the polls… – WaPo, 4-8-11


Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
The House speaker, John A. Boehner, announced the federal budget agreement reached Friday night by Congressional leaders.


  • Federal shutdown avoided, 2012 budget fight looms: A last-minute budget deal forged amid bluster and tough bargaining averted an embarrassing federal shutdown, cut billions in spending and provided the first major test of the divided government that voters ushered in five months ago.
    Working late into Friday night, congressional and White House negotiators finally agreed on a plan to pay for government operations through the end of September while trimming $38.5 billion in spending. Lawmakers then approved a measure to keep the government running through next Friday while the details of the new spending plan are written into legislation.
    Obama signed the short-term measure without fanfare Saturday. Congressional approval of the actual deal is expected in the middle of next week. “Americans of different beliefs came together again,” President Barack Obama said from the White House Blue Room, a setting chosen to offer a clear view of the Washington Monument over his right shoulder.
    The agreement was negotiated by Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. The administration was poised to shutter federal services, from national parks to tax-season help centers, and to send furlough notices to hundreds of thousands of federal workers… – AP, 4-9-11
  • Long meetings, dashed hopes _ but finally a deal: There was barely an hour left before the midnight padlocking of government doors. In a Capitol basement meeting room, House Speaker John Boehner was telling exhausted fellow Republicans that a deal to avert a shutdown was nearly finished when an aide alerted him that staff had completed the final details and the agreement was complete.
    “He said we don’t have the Senate and we don’t have the White House, and it’s a good day’s work,” said Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who was in the closed-door session and later described the scene. And with that, Republicans clapped: “Not euphoria,” Kingston said, reflecting fatigue and the realization of a long year of intense budget battling lay ahead. But for now, a week of top-level White House meetings, round-the-clock bargaining by staff and lots of emotional hills and valleys had produced a bipartisan accord to trim $38.5 billion in spending over this fiscal year’s remaining six months and head off a federal shutdown that both parties feared could hurt their standing with voters…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Analysis: GOP won first round of budget battle: Republican conservatives were the chief winners in the budget deal that forced Democrats to accept historic spending cuts they strongly opposed. Emboldened by last fall’s election victories, fiscal conservatives have changed the debate in Washington. The question no longer is whether to cut spending, but how deeply. Rarely mentioned is the idea of higher taxes to lower the deficit. Their success is all the more notable because Democrats control the Senate and White House…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Budget deal avoids shutdown, fight ahead: President Barack Obama signed a short-term spending bill on Saturday that averted a government shutdown, formalizing a compromise deal with Republicans that paves the way for more — and bigger — deficit-reduction fights to come. With just over an hour to spare before a midnight deadline, Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans agreed on Friday to a budget compromise that will cut about $38 billion in spending for the last six months of this fiscal year.
    After signing the stopgap spending bill to keep the federal government running until the deal can be formally approved in the coming days, Obama underscored the fact that Washington was open with a surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial. “I just wanted to say … that because Congress was able to settle its difference, that’s why this place is open today and everybody’s able to enjoy their visit,” he told cheering tourists from the monument steps…. – Reuters, 4-9-11
  • Obama signs bill averting government shutdown: The short-term spending bill was passed overnight by both houses of Congress and keeps the government operating until Friday. Its signing was announced in a news release, in contrast to the dramatics earlier this week…. – LAT, 4-9-11
  • Obama at Lincoln Memorial, open after budget deal: President Barack Obama made the short trip from the White House to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to make clear that the country’s national parks and monuments are open for business. A deal Friday night between the White House and congressional leaders avoided a government shutdown that would have closed popular tourist sites across the country.
    The president greeted surprised tourists and told them, “Because Congress was able to settle its differences, that’s why this place is open today and everybody’s able to enjoy their visit.” “That’s the kind of future cooperation I hope we have going forward,” the president said…. – AP, 4-9-11
  • Next on the Agenda for Washington: Fight Over Debt: The down-to-the-wire partisan struggle over cuts to this year’s federal budget has intensified concern in Washington, on Wall Street and among economists about the more consequential clash coming over increasing the government’s borrowing limit. Congressional Republicans are vowing that before they will agree to raise the current $14.25 trillion federal debt ceiling — a step that will become necessary in as little as five weeks — President Obama and Senate Democrats will have to agree to far deeper spending cuts for next year and beyond than those contained in the six-month budget deal agreed to late Friday night that cut $38 billion and averted a government shutdown. Republicans have also signaled that they will again demand fundamental changes in policy on health care, the environment, abortion rights and more, as the price of their support for raising the debt ceiling. In a letter last week, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner told Congressional leaders the government would hit the limit no later than May 16. He outlined “extraordinary measures” — essentially moving money among federal accounts — that could buy time until July 8…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • Tea Party revels in newfound clout: ‘When we;re cutting, we’re winning’: Americans learned yesterday the full power of the Tea Party, with newly elected conservatives calling the shots in the House rather than railing against government from the sidelines. For many in the movement, pushing the government to the brink of closure was a crowning achievement, an emphatic statement that spending must be reined in — and now. “When we’re cutting,” said Representative Nan Hayworth, a New York Republican, “we’re winning.” “It’s a victory for the American people,” declared Representative Allen West, Republican of Florida. “When you look at what has happened over the past few years — where we’ve had these astronomical debt and deficits — it’s amazing how we’re actually having a conversation in Washington, D.C., about spending cuts.”
    But for those outside the movement, it put on full display the uncompromising principles of the far right, showing that Tea Party-aligned lawmakers are so ideologically rigid they will throw sand into the gears of government to prove their point. Democrats questioned why conservatives who campaigned on creating jobs were so eager to furlough 800,000 government employees and freeze their paychecks. “The Tea Party is trying to sneak through its extreme social agenda,” Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, said yesterday…. – Boston Globe, 4-9-11
  • Budget Deal to Cut $38 Billion Averts Shutdown: Congressional leaders and President Obama headed off a shutdown of the government with less than two hours to spare Friday night under a tentative budget deal that would cut $38 billion from federal spending this year. President Obama praised the budget deal in short remarks from the Blue Room in the White House just after 11 p.m.
    Speaker John A. Boehner, who had pressed Democrats for cuts sought by members of the conservative new House majority, presented the package of widespread spending reductions and policy provisions and won a positive response from his rank and file shortly before 11 p.m. Both Democrats and Republicans proclaimed they had reached a deal and would begin the necessary steps to pass the bill and send it to Mr. Obama next week…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • Historic’ deal to avoid government shutdown: Perilously close to a government shutdown, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders reached a historic agreement late Friday night to cut about $38 billion in spending and avert the first federal closure in 15 years. Obama hailed the deal as “the biggest annual spending cut in history.” House Speaker John Boehner said that over the next decade it would cut government spending by $500 billion — and won an ovation from his rank and file, tea party adherents among them. “This is historic, what we’ve done,” agreed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the third man involved in negotiations that ratified a new era of divided government…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • US House Republicans told of $39 bln spending plan: U.S. House of Representatives Republican leaders on Friday presented to their membership a $39 billion spending cut plan aimed at averting a government shutdown, according to Republican lawmakers. The House is also planning to vote later tonight on a stopgap funding bill to keep the government running until the longer budget plan can be enacted into law sometime next week, the lawmakers said…. – Reuters, 4-8-11


President Obama records the weekly address
White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/8/11
  • Barack Obama: Last night, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future. This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time—including our brave men and women in uniform… –
  • Weekly Address: President Obama on the Budget Compromise to Avoid a Government Shutdown: Last night, after weeks of long and difficult negotiations over our national budget, leaders of both parties came together to avert a government shutdown, cut spending, and invest in our future.
    This is good news for the American people. It means that small businesses can get the loans they need, our families can get the mortgages they applied for, folks can visit our national parks and museums, and hundreds of thousands of Americans will get their paychecks on time – including our brave men and women in uniform.
    This is an agreement to invest in our country’s future while making the largest annual spending cut in our history. Like any compromise, this required everyone to give ground on issues that were important to them. I certainly did. Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful – 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 we also prevented this important debate from being overtaken by politics and unrelated disagreements on social issues. And beginning to live within our means is the only way to protect the 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.
    Reducing spending while still investing in the future is just common sense. That’s what families do in tough times. They sacrifice where they can, even if it’s hard, to afford what’s really important.
    A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now, the same cooperation has made it possible for us to move forward with the biggest annual spending cut in history. And it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead – from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our long-term deficits.
    That’s our responsibility. That’s what the American people expect us to do. And it’s what the American people deserve. – WH, 4-9-11
  • President Obama’s Statement on the Bipartisan Agreement on the Budget: REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE BUDGET 11:04 P.M. EDT: THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. Behind me, through the window, you can see the Washington Monument, visited each year by hundreds of thousands from around the world. The people who travel here come to learn about our history and to be inspired by the example of our democracy — a place where citizens of different backgrounds and beliefs can still come together as one nation.
    Tomorrow, I’m pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business. And that’s because today Americans of different beliefs came together again.
    In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform.
    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. 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. 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.
    At the same time, we also made sure that at the end of the day, this was a debate about spending cuts, not social issues like women’s health and the protection of our air and water. These are important issues that deserve discussion, just not during a debate about our budget.
    I want to think Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid for their leadership and their dedication during this process. A few months ago, I was able to sign a tax cut for American families because both parties worked through their differences and found common ground. Now the same cooperation will make possible the biggest annual spending cut in history, and it’s my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead, from creating jobs and growing our economy to educating our children and reducing our deficit. That’s what the American people expect us to do. That’s why they sent us here…. – WH, 4-8-11TranscriptMp4Mp3
  • Democrats, Republicans agree on a budget deal: “We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the President. We will cut $78.5 billion below the President’s 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner said in a joint statement issued after the agreement. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Speaker of the House of Representatives John A. Boehner: This has been a lot of discussion and a long fight. But we fought to keep government spending down because it really will in fact help create a better environment for job creators in our country.
  • U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell Welcomes Historic Spending Reductions: Let me thank my friend the Majority Leader and Speaker Boehner for their outstanding work during this difficult negotiation. You know, Mr. President, we had an opportunity tonight to decide whether we wanted to repeat history, or make history. Had we chosen to repeat history, we would have allowed a government shutdown. Instead we decided to make history by implementing in the middle of this fiscal year as the Majority Leader has indicated substantial reductions in spending.
    Now, these reductions, Mr. President, are in the billions. Once we get through this process by the end of next week, we will move on to a much larger discussion about how we save trillions, by enacting hopefully on a bipartisan basis a budget that genuinely begins to get on top of this problem. And the problem as we all know is $14 trillion in debt, and over $53 trillion in unfunded liabilities. The President has asked us to raise the debt ceiling. And Senate Republicans and House Republicans and I hope many Democrats as well are going to say, Mr. President, in order to raise the debt ceiling, we need to do something significant about the debt. My definition of significant is that the markets view it as significant, the American people view it as significant and foreign countries view it as significant.
    So for tonight, again, I congratulate the Majority Leader and the Speaker. This is an important first step, but just the beginning of what we need to do to get our house, our fiscal house, in order. –


Gallery: Government shutdown 2011: Congressional leaders agreed late Friday to a compromise that will keep the federal government funded for the remainder of the fiscal year.

  • Gary Jacobson, Julian Zelizer: Obama Calls Budget Deal a ‘Worthwhile Compromise’: “The size of the cuts is a bit more than Democrats would like, but on the other hand, the riders are generally gone,” said Gary Jacobson, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego. “So it’s something that might be generally popular and help both sides. Most Americans wanted some sort of compromise.”
    Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey, said Obama may face questions about whether he engaged in the negotiations soon enough. “All and all, this is something he survives rather than a negotiation that remakes how the electorate thinks about him,” Zelizer said. Bloomberg, 4-9-11
  • JEFF ZELENY: In Budget Deal, Signs of Obama’s Path to the Middle: President Obama opened the week by calling on Democrats to embrace his re-election campaign. He closed it by praising Republicans for forging a compromise to cut spending this year and avert a government shutdown. The juxtaposition made clearer than ever the more centrist governing style Mr. Obama has adopted since his party’s big losses in November and his recapture-the-middle strategy for winning a second term.
    But in agreeing Friday night to what he called the largest annual spending cut in the nation’s history, the president further decoupled himself from his party in Congress, exacerbating concerns among some Democrats about whether he is really one of them and is willing to spend political capital to defend their principles on bigger battles ahead…. – NYT, 4-9-11
  • 2011 is not 1995: The substance of this deal is bad. But the way Democrats are selling it makes it much, much worse. The final compromise was $38.5 billion below 2010’s funding levels. That’s $78.5 billion below President Obama’s original budget proposal, which would’ve added $40 billion to 2010’s funding levels, and $6.5 billion below John Boehner’s original counteroffer, which would’ve subtracted $32 billion from 2010’s budget totals. In the end, the real negotiation was not between the Republicans and the Democrats, or even the Republicans and the White House. It was between John Boehner and the conservative wing of his party. And once that became clear, it turned out that Boehner’s original offer wasn’t even in the middle. It was slightly center-left…. – WaPo, 4-9-11
  • The Shutdown That Wasn’t: Given the widespread consensus that the political consequences of a shutdown would be much worse for the Republicans than for the Democrats, there’s a case to be made that Reid and Obama would have been better off taking a much harder line, and then just sitting back and chuckling as the Tea Party caucus pushed an unwilling Boehner off the plank.
    So why didn’t they? Well, maybe they put country before party, and calculated that shutting down the government over what amounts to a fraction of a fraction of a vast federal budget would be horribly irresponsible, even if it made liberals happy and redounded to the Democratic Party’s short-term benefit. If so, good for them. – NYT, 4-9-11

Budget Showdown 2011: Obama, Republicans and Democrats Concerned with Ideological Stances or National Interests?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

The President delivers a statement on budget

President Obama delivers a statement on the ongoing budget talks., White House Photo, Pete Souza, 4/7/11

Why is President Obama playing hardball, taking a gamble where there will be losses all around, if when the clock strikes midnight today and no budget or extension deal are in place to keep the government operating?

A government shutdown should be averted at all reasonable costs. If a final budget cannot be decided today, the Senate needs to pass the emergency week extension, and the insurance that the military will be paid even if a shutdown will happen. So much progress has been made this week in nearing to a deal for the budget for rest of the fiscal year; the extra week could make all the difference.

President Obama should not be stiff and insist on a veto, or refuse the spending cuts that are sticklers and preventing a budget agreement. Vetoing any measure that would keep the government open will in the long run look bad for the Democrats and President Obama. The side that did the most to prevent the shutdown will be the side that public will look most favorably at come election time.

Besides political capital, it is not a time for the government to be shut down, with the revolutions, turmoil and unrest in the Mideast, the continuing tragedy in Japan and with the Canadian government non-confidence vote, campaign and election, the United States needs to be the stable world presence, a government shutdown diverts from this.

Additionally the economy and country does not need to go through any more turmoil and expenses that might upset the delicate economic recovery. Only last week official numbers were released indicating a decrease in unemployment. With a shutdown the estimated numbers now indicate that 800,000 of 2 million civil servants will be placed on furlough. In a short period the monetary costs of a shutdown will pile up and be evident, with Washington, DC being the hardest hit.

The issue at this very moment preventing an eleventh hour budget agreement is 300 million in funding to Planned Parenthood; of all allocations, there should be a compromise concerning this spending issue. However, the divisions are strictly ideological. Republicans consciously do not see Planned Parenthood as an essential government spending. While Democrats and the President refuse to compromise either on the issue, with President Obama explicitly refusing any cuts to their funding.

Both sides see it as more important than keeping the government open, more essential than the harm to the economy caused by shutdown, the civil servant workers and military troops that will not be paid, the millions of dollars that will be lost, and the devastating economic affect should there be a protracted shutdown.

If the Democrats are insisting that the Republicans are being petty on the spending issues they are concerned about, then maybe they should heed their own advice, and agree on the cuts for the country’s greater good. Either way both parties in Congress and President Obama should consider what is best for the majority of American citizens and the country as a whole above any ideological stands and symbols.

Budget Showdown 2011: Tick, Tock — Time Running Out Before Government Shutdown — Reid, Boehner Still Hagling


By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.


The president said he expects an answer from John Boehner and Harry Reid as to whether Congress can come to an agreement.

John Boehner (left) and Harry Reid speak to reporters outside the White House. | AP Photo | AP Photo


  • Republican Fiscal Year 2012 Budget
  • From Reagan to Obama 30 years of spending prioritiesWaPo
  • Government shutdown 101: What does it mean for the military?: The Pentagon will continue military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, but US troops will work without pay, according to guidance issued late Thursday by the Defense Department…. – CS Monitor, 4-8-11
  • The Federal Employee’s Guide to a Shutdown: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the official White House agency in charge of federal-workforce policies, issued this brief FAQ Thursday night about what people can expect in the event of a federal-government shutdown, which appears likelier by the minute…. – The Atlantic, 4-8-11
  • Lawsuit says feds can’t force work during shutdown: The nation’s largest federal employee union says forcing some federal employees to work without pay during a government shutdown violates the U.S. Constitution. The American Federation of Government Employees has filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to prevent the Obama administration from requiring essential employees to keep working if a shutdown occurs… – AP, 4-8-11


President Obama speaking in the Brady Briefing Room on Thursday after a meeting with the House speaker, John A. Boehner, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, on the budget impasse.<br />“/><span480
Doug Mills/The New York Times

  • With no budget deal, government shutdown looms: With a midnight deadline looming, the White House and Congress struggled on Friday to break a budget impasse that threatens to shut down the U.S. government and idle hundreds of thousands of federal workers. Democratic and Republican congressional leaders blamed each other for the stalemate over government funding for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends September 30, and could not even agree on what issues were the final stumbling blocks to a deal.
    Democrats said the two sides were at odds over federal funding for birth control. Republicans said spending cuts were the issue. Without an agreement, money to operate the federal government for the next six months would run out at midnight on Friday (0400 GMT on Saturday) and agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service would begin a partial shutdown…. – Reuters, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown nears as Americans watch and politicians bicker: Everyday American families — people who depend on federal government paychecks and those who make use of federal services that would be shuttered — fretted over how a shutdown would affect their lives if politicians don’t come up with an agreement by midnight Friday.
    Without the agreement, the government’s massive gears will begin grinding to a halt, idling hundreds of thousands of people.
    Operations from national parks to the White House visitor center would close. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs. Americans seeking new passports would have to wait. And the military would not be able to pay death gratuities to the families of those who die on active duty, although they would eventually receive them, a senior defense official said. But not everything would close shop…. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • On shutdown, White House frustration with John Boehner grows: President Barack Obama has told Speaker John Boehner he won’t accept cuts to Planned Parenthood and can’t make any new concessions to avert a government shutdown without movement from the GOP, sources close to the process tell POLITICO.
    Frustration is building in the White House over the high-wire budget negotiations with Republicans. The sense in the West Wing is that Boehner and his aide-de-camp Barry Jackson have repeatedly offered to set aside the Planned Parenthood issue in exchange for greater spending cuts from Obama, only to later say that the Planned Parenthood cuts are still on the table. Boehner was vague when asked if Title X funding, some of which goes to Planned Parenthood, was still a sticking point.
    “Almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with,” he told reporters at the Capitol on Friday. “The big issue is over the spending… We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people like has been done time and time again in Washington… We’re damn serious.”
  • Planned Parenthood at Center of Budget Shutdown Threat Rep. Milkulski: ‘Not Throwing Women and Children Under the Bus’: The elimination of more than $300 million in federal funding for women’s health care centers, including Planned Parenthood, may well force a government shutdown at midnight tonight. Republicans want to zero out Title X, a program implemented under Republican President Richard Nixon in 1970 to provide contraceptives, cancer screenings, and pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease testing at community health centers across the country. Conservative lawmakers say the money indirectly subsidizes abortions, despite the fact that the federal Hyde Amendment expressly prohibits such use of taxpayer funds…. – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • GOP, Dem huddles fail to yield progress on budget deal: After both sides huddled behind closed doors Friday afternoon, the message from both Senate Democrats and House Republicans remained clear… They’re still stuck… – MSNBC, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown Near, No Sign of Compromise: Hours from a government shutdown, leaders of the House and Senate offered dramatically different reasons for a budget stalemate and expressed little hope that the two sides would reach an agreement by midnight. In a terse statement to reporters, the speaker of the House, John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said there was “only one reason we do not have an agreement yet, and that is spending,” and asked, “When will the White House and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”… – NYT, 4-8-11
  • On Budget Dispute, Obama Casts Himself as Mediator in Chief: President Obama has now assumed the role of mediator in chief in the efforts to avoid a government shutdown. Over the course of 24 hours and three separate meetings, Mr. Obama has cast himself as the sober one in the room, prodding the two sides to get past their dispute — even though he is a key player on one of them.
    “What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is, because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning,” Mr. Obama told reporters moments after the third negotiation session broke up Thursday night…. – NYT, 4-8-11
  • Blame game intense as government shutdown looms: House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP leadership team just emerged from a meeting with their Republican members. Boehner insists the fight is about spending cuts, not policy issues such as funding for women’s health clinics.
    “The big fight is over spending. … We’re not going to roll over and sell out the American people,” Boehner said. “We say we’re serious about cutting spending. We’re damn serious.” “Almost all of the policy issues have been dealt with. We’re working on the spending,” he said…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Shutdown could mean trash dumped at Boehner’s house: A Facebook page has been launched aimed at getting people to dump their garbage at the Ohio Republican’s pad in Washington, D.C. Trash pickup is among the services that would be halted in the District of Columbia, whose funding is tied to congressional approval.
    “If he won’t allow us to use OUR TAX DOLLARS to pick it up, maybe we should just BRING IT TO HIM,” the page says. More than 5,000 people have checked out the Facebook page and 546 people — presumably those who live in the District of Columbia or nearby — are listed as a “maybe” to actually “attend” the dumping of trash…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Government shutdown nears: Federal workers nervously eyed the clock and an American public sharply divided along partisan lines watched from the sidelines Friday as Democrats and Republicans sniped at one another in a budget battle that could shut down the government and idle more than 800,000 people. Negotiators have until midnight Friday to reach an agreement, or the government’s massive gears will begin grinding to a halt.
    Should the government shut down, operations from national parks to veterans’ clinics would close. The White House visitor center would go dark. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs. But not everything would close… – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Government Shutdown Inevitable: Blame Game Increases as Clock Ticks Democrats, Republicans Met Thursday Night into Friday Morning But Couldn’t Reach Deal: House Speaker John Boehner said today he will return his pay during the days the government is shut down. He made the promise as it became clear that Republicans and Democrats — bitterly divided over women’s health funding programs — will be hard pressed to reach a deal hours before the budget deadline expires. In the case of a government shutdown, essential personnel who are kept on duty — including troops in the field — do not receive paychecks, but members of Congress do.
    “In the event of a lapse in appropriations for fiscal year 2011 causing a government shutdown, I will return any and all compensation that I would otherwise be entitled during such a lapse in appropriations,” Boehner said in a letter to fellow House members.
    Sixty senators have signed on to a bill that would ensure troops are paid through a shutdown, but time is quickly running out…. – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • Congress doesn’t shut down during a shutdown: Senators would have to push their own elevator buttons. House members would go without their free gym. Food on Capitol Hill would be sparse. And the lawmakers’ restrooms? Perhaps not as fresh.
    Congress would feel the pinch of a government shutdown, but nowhere near the pain that would be inflicted on the massive federal work force it is supposed to govern.
    Unlike the roughly 800,000 federal workers who would be affected, lawmakers get wide latitude deciding who is essential and who’s not in the fiefdoms of their own offices and committees. They also get to choose whether to give up their own pay during a shutdown — an option not afforded the furloughed…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • Boehner, Reid to skip pay in government shutdown: Add House Speaker John Boehner to the growing list of members of Congress who say they’ll skip their paycheck if the federal government shuts down tonight. By law, members of Congress and the president would continue to receive their pay in the event of a government shutdown.
    Boehner is sending a letter to House lawmakers explaining how the House Administration can help them return their pay to the U.S. Treasury, which he plans to do…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • Gates, in Iraq, Talks of Effects of Budget Fight: On what he described as probably his final visit to Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Thursday turned from eight years of war here to the fight raging at home. If the United States government shuts down this weekend and into next week, he told American troops, there would be a delay in their pay.
    Mr. Gates, responding to a question from a soldier here about whether he would be paid for his service in Iraq, said he would be, he just was not sure when. Mr. Gates then presented this sequence of events of what could happen to American forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world as a result of the budget showdown. NYt, 4-8-11
  • Planned Parenthood funding only issue holding up budget deal, says Harry Reid: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Friday morning that the only issue holding up a budget deal to avert a government shutdown is funding for Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide women’s health services… – CBS News, 4-8-11
  • As Shutdown Deadline Nears, Lawmakers ‘Can’t Agree What They Disagree On’: For the third time in three days, President Obama met with congressional leaders but failed to reach a budget agreement to avoid a government shutdown. Jim Lehrer talks to The Wall Street Journal’s Naftali Bendavid and Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe about continuing budget brinksmanship that has Democrats and Republicans worried…. – PBS Newshour, 4-7-11
  • Time’s up: Obama and GOP scramble to halt shutdown: Uncomfortably close to a deadline, President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders have only hours to avert a Friday midnight government shutdown that all sides say would inconvenience millions of people and damage a still fragile economy. Obama said he still hoped to announce an agreement on Friday but did not have “wild optimism.”
    In revealing nothing about what still divides them, Obama and the lawmakers, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., all said another late night of talks in the Oval Office had narrowed their differences over cutting federal spending and other matters.
    But Obama said ominously that the machinery of a shutdown was already in motion. “I expect an answer in the morning,” Obama told reporters Thursday evening as representatives from the White House and Capitol Hill plunged ahead with negotiations into the night…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • With shutdown looming, riders threaten deal: The government will shut down today, unless Republicans do what their base loathes, but Washington knows is necessary: compromise with Democrats and President Barack Obama. That’s what it comes down to Friday, as the current stopgap funding measure expires and funding for the federal government runs dry, placing the immediate employment of 800,000 workers in jeopardy, and both political parties at huge risk a year and a half before a presidential election.
    Obama, who made a late public entry into the fight, said he expects “an answer in the morning” from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as to whether Congress can agree on how many tens of billions of dollars should be cut from federal ledgers from now until the end of September.
    Money isn’t the only sticking point. Just as it was for Democrats when as they worked to pass a health care law, abortion is once again a major issue. Republicans insist on cutting off funds for Planned Parenthood, turning the battle to fund the government into part of the overarching culture war on Capitol Hill. Republicans say bringing Planned Parenthood into the fray is a spending issue, as they told voters they’d concentrate on jobs and the economy, not cultural issues… – Politico, 4-8-11
  • Reid: impasse based on funding for Planned Parenthood; Boehner denies it: House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio), the lead Republican in the budget impasse that has transfixed Washington and brought the nation to the brink of a government shutdown, immediately disputed Reid’s account.
    The Democrat, speaking at the Capitol, said that he and President Obama had agreed to accept $38 billion in budget cuts — $5 billion more than was on the table last week. But, Reid said, Boehner would not budge from a demand that the budget strip federal funding from the group Planned Parenthood. Negotiations continued at the staff level until 3 a.m., to no avail. “We agreed on a number last night. They can spin this any way they want,” Reid said. “The number’s done.”… – WaPo, 4-7-11
  • Budget deal remains out of reach after overnight talks: The first federal government shutdown in 15 years is hours away after parties in the budget negotiations appear to have lost ground in talks that lasted into Friday morning…. – LAT, 4-8-11
  • Latest White House huddle fails to yield budget deal; shutdown nears: A fourth White House meeting in 48 hours between President Barack Obama and congressional leaders failed to reach agreement Thursday night on a spending plan for the rest of the current fiscal year, increasing chances for a partial government shutdown to begin just over 24 hours later.
    The talks involving Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, ended less than an hour after starting.
    “We made some progress today,” Obama told reporters in brief remarks, saying differences had been narrowed and staff members would work through the night to try to reach agreement on the few remaining “difficult issues.” He provided no details…. – CNN, 4-7-11
  • House votes to fund Pentagon, prevent shutdown: The GOP-controlled House has passed legislation seeking to keep the government open for another week while funding the Pentagon through September. But Senate Democrats oppose it, and President Barack Obama has promised a veto should the bill reach him. Obama called the measure a distraction from ongoing negotiations on a full-year spending bill…. – AP, 4-8-11
  • Obama, Congress stare at shutdown deadline: Once again, White House and congressional aides worked through the night on a new budget deal — and they still couldn’t nail one down. The difference is that today is deadline day.
    The federal government will run out of money at midnight and shut down many operations unless President Obama, Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, can strike some kind of deal in the hours ahead.
    But while aides argue about budget numbers, Reid and other Democrats said this morning that the biggest obstacle to a deal is a Republican insistence that Planned Parenthood be de-funded because of abortion services. Boehner and the Republicans said the problem is that Democrats won’t agree to big enough budget cuts. “While nothing will be decided until everything is decided, the largest issue is still spending cuts,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel…. – USA Today, 4-8-11
  • $5 billion separates parties in elusive 2011 budget deal: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill say they are about $5 billion apart in their haggling to reach a deal to fund the federal government for the rest of the year. That amounts to one-half of 1 percent of the trillion dollars in spending Congress doles out each year. Five one-thousandths.
    Yet weeks of negotiations have not led them to an agreement. A flurry of activity Thursday, including two Oval Office sit-downs with President Obama, did not close the gap, or even cool the rhetoric. Each side continued to accuse the other of playing politics, and of trying to force a government impasse.
    The only question on the minds of everyone in the capital — will a shutdown happen? — is now being asked with increasing urgency. If the two sides cannot come to terms by midnight , Washington will effectively run out of money and the government will close.
    “What I’ve said to the speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning,” Obama said just before 10 p.m. Thursday, concluding his fourth meeting with congressional leaders in three days… – WaPo, 4-8-11
  • Congress pushes for final budget deal: With time running out, an ideological fight in the Congress over abortion and environmental issues threatened on Thursday to derail an agreement to avert a government shutdown.
    The mood swung between optimism and pessimism as Democratic and Republican leaders held a whirlwind series of private meetings and public news conferences through the day to plead their case for a budget deal that would keep the government operating beyond midnight on Friday.
    “I’m not very optimistic,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, told reporters before the evening meeting, blaming the impasse on a Republican push for policy provisions that would block public funding of birth control and stymie environmental protection efforts.
    “I did express to the president my disappointment that he suggested he would veto that,” Boehner told reporters after the afternoon White House meeting. “We can get to an agreement, but we are not there yet.”… – Reuters, 4-7-11
  • GOP seeks 1-week extension as gov’t shutdown looms: Short of a deal, congressional leaders bargained and squabbled by turns Thursday on legislation to cut spending and prevent a partial government shutdown that loomed for Friday at midnight. After all-night talks among aides, President Barack Obama summoned Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. to the White House meeting for the second time in a little over 12 hours.
    Before departing the Capitol, Boehner urged the House to pass legislation to cut $12 billion, fund the Pentagon through the end of the year and keep the government running for a week. “There is absolutely no policy reason for the Senate to not follow the House in taking these responsible steps to support our troops and to keep our government open,” he said.
    Reid said otherwise, although he, too, made it clear he wants to avoid a shutdown that the White House says would crease problems for combat troops overseas and delay IRS refunds for taxpayers at home. “The issue is ideology, not numbers,” he said, criticizing Republican proposals to limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency and a prohibition of the use of federal or local funds to pay for most abortions in the District of Columbia. “These matters have no place on a budget bill,” he said…. – Business Week, 4-8-11
  • GOP prepares 1-week extension as shutdown looms: Republicans battling with President Barack Obama over budget cuts plan to hold a House vote Thursday on one-week legislation to avoid a government shutdown, despite opposition from the White House and Senate Democrats pressing for a longer-term solution.
    The party leaders debated as the clock ticked toward a midnight Friday deadline. Even a brief shutdown could affect a wide range of Americans, from troops fighting abroad to tourists planning trips to national parks.
    The move by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to advance the interim budget measure angered his Democratic negotiating counterparts and came after slower-than-hoped White House talks Wednesday night. The president said Republicans need to display more urgency, while Boehner said honest differences remain…. – AP, 4-7-11
  • Obama Meeting Fails to End Stalemate Over Federal Budget: President Obama and Congressional leaders said Wednesday that a late-night White House bargaining session produced no budget breakthrough that would avert a government shutdown this weekend but agreed the two sides had narrowed the issues in efforts to strike a deal.
    Emerging from a 90-minute meeting with Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, and Speaker John A. Boehner, the president said aides would work through the night and he and Mr. Reid expressed optimism that a compromise could be reached.
    “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown,” Mr. Obama said. NYT, 4-7-11
  • Some progress cited in federal budget talks: Republican House Speaker John Boehner won’t acknowledge compromising with Democrats, but he and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid both cite movement in White House negotiations to avoid a government shutdown…. – LAT, 4-7-11
  • Rifts Within Both Parties Test Leaders in Budget Fight: On one level, the budget showdown that continued to play out here on Wednesday is all about the balance of power between the two parties, a question of whether President Obama has regained his footing and can still control the direction of the country or whether Speaker John A. Boehner and the Republicans are now calling the shots.
    But on another, it is a test of each man’s ability to weather challenges inside his own party. The outcome will help determine whether Mr. Boehner is leading his party or following the demands of the Tea Party movement. For Mr. Obama, it is the biggest test yet of whether he can reposition himself as a pragmatic leader who can recapture the political center and keep liberals sufficiently energized to help him win re-election…. – NYT, 4-7-11
  • Obama Presses for Budget Issues ‘Narrowed’; Parties Asked to Work Through Night as Shutdown Looms: “What [the talks] did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama said. He was confident a deal could be reached to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, he said, but “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”
    Staffers from the White House and the offices of Messrs. Boehner and Reid were set to work through night, and Mr. Obama said he would check in with them Thursday morning—a day and a half before the deadline—and summon the parties back to the White House if necessary.
    “We’re going to keep pounding away at this thing,” Mr. Obama said…. – WSJ, 4-7-11
  • President Obama talks with reporters about the 2011 budget negotiations. He said he should not have to be a referee for Congress: Racing a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown, President Obama met late Wednesday with top congressional negotiators and said afterward that he is “confident” a spending deal can be finalized in time.
    House Speaker John A. Boehner, the top Republican who met with Mr. Obama, said there is still no agreement on an overall dollar amount for spending cuts, or on what legislative add-ons will be included in any final spending deal. But all sides agreed their staffs would continue working after the high-level White House meeting.
    “What they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding,” Mr. Obama told reporters afterward. “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done, we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.”…. – Washington Times, 4-7-11
  • In Washington, squabbling over who’s an adult: Suddenly everyone in Washington wants to be an adult. President Barack Obama says he wants to have an adult dialogue on the budget. Republican lawmakers contend they’re the ones trying to have a grown-up talk. Both sides are pointing fingers yet both have agreed to repeated delays in completing a budget to keep the government open for the last six months of the fiscal year.
    The bickering might seem, well, childish, but the stakes are high as each side tries to win public opinion and display the leadership qualities to attract voters at the ballot box through 2012 and beyond…. – AP, 4-7-11
  • Administration: Shutdown would furlough 800,000 federal workers: Officials began warning Wednesday of significant cutbacks in government services as the threat of a federal government shutdown lurched one day closer to reality.
    Failure to reach a budget deal would mean furloughing about 800,000 federal employees nationwide — many of whom are expected to surrender their Blackberrys, according to senior administration officials familiar with shutdown planning…. – WaPo, 4-6-11
  • White House says shutdown will delay pay to troops: The Obama administration warned Wednesday that a federal shutdown would undermine the economic recovery, delay pay to U.S. troops fighting in three wars, slow the processing of tax returns and limit small business loans and government-backed mortgages during peak home buying season.
    The dire message, delivered two days before the federal government’s spending authority expires, appeared aimed at jolting congressional Republicans into a budget compromise. Billions of dollars apart, congressional negotiators were working to strike a deal by Friday to avert a shutdown by setting spending limits through the end of September. The last such shutdown took place 15 years ago and lasted 21 days…. – AP, 4-6-11
  • GOP budget seen raising health costs for retirees: Talks appear to be intensifying on Capitol Hill on reaching a deal on long-overdue legislation to finance the government through the end of September — and avoid a government shutdown. Whether a shutdown can be avoided in three days’ time is another matter.
    A White House meeting Tuesday that included President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., failed to produce the hoped-for breakthrough, however, with a stopgap government funding bill set to expire Friday at midnight…. – AP, 4-6-11
  • Obama presses Congress to avoid shutdown: Prodded by an insistent President Barack Obama, Congress’ top two lawmakers sought to reinvigorate compromise talks Tuesday aimed at cutting tens of billions in federal spending and averting a partial government shutdown Friday at midnight.
    According to Democrats, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, suggested at a White House meeting that fellow Republicans might be able to accept a deal with $40 billion in cuts. That’s more than negotiators had been eyeing but less than the House seeks.
    The speaker’s office declined comment, and Boehner issued a statement saying, “We can still avoid a shutdown, but Democrats are going to need to get serious about cutting spending – and soon.”
    For his part, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid sounded an accusatory note. “I hope the Republicans do what the country needs, not what they believe the tea party wants,” he said at the Capitol “I mean, it seems that every step we take, it’s something just to poke us in the eye,” he said…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • GOP budget plan would revamp Medicare, Medicaid: House Republicans set up a politically defining clash over the size and priorities of government Tuesday, unveiling a budget plan that calls for both unprecedented spending cuts and a fundamental restructuring of taxpayer-financed health care for the elderly and the poor.
    The plan would slash federal spending by $5 trillion or more over the coming decade. It would leave Social Security untouched but shift more of the risk from rising medical costs from the government to Medicare beneficiaries. It also calls for sharp cuts to Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled and to food aid for the poor.
    Dubbed the “Path to Prosperity,” the proposal by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also calls for dramatically overhauling the complicated and inefficient U.S. tax code. It would scrap numerous tax breaks and loopholes in exchange for reducing the top income tax rate for both individuals and corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent…. – AP, 4-5-11
  • No headway on spending plan talks: The first federal government shutdown in more than 15 years draws closer as President Obama and congressional leaders fail to make progress after back-to-back meetings. Obama and Congress remained billions of dollars apart and at odds over where to find savings… – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • As shutdown looms, GOP announces budget plan for 2012: Budget plan would privatize Medicare, cut spending on Medicaid, and offer sharply lower tax rates to corporations and the wealthy…. – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • Budget Stances Harden as Deadline Nears for Shutdown: President Obama on Tuesday flatly dismissed a short-term Republican plan to keep the federal government operating past Friday as Speaker John A. Boehner sought deeper spending cuts, putting Congress and the White House on a course toward a government shutdown.
    Showing some exasperation at the impasse over this year’s budget, Mr. Obama appeared at an impromptu White House news conference and said it would be inexcusable if federal agencies were forced to shut their doors beginning Saturday because House Republicans and Senate Democrats could not bridge differences over a relatively small slice of the budget.
    “As I’ve said before, we have now matched the number that the speaker originally sought,” the president said. “The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown.”
    Appearing before television cameras in the Capitol shortly after the president spoke, Mr. Boehner seemed equally determined not to give ground. The speaker, who faces intense pressure from his conservative rank-and- file, said he intended to push for the greatest spending cuts achievable and would not be maneuvered by Democrats into settling for less. “We are not going to allow the Senate nor the White House to put us in a box,” Mr. Boehner said…. – NYT, 4-5-11
  • Budget wars: Moment of truth arrives: With Republicans upping the ante on spending cuts, President Barack Obama took a tougher line himself Tuesday, warning he won’t sign another stopgap bill without first reaching a deal over the 2011 budget — even at the risk of a shutdown Friday.
    Obama’s comments followed a meeting with congressional leaders at which House Speaker John Boehner floated a compromise of $40 billion in spending cuts — $7 billion more than the $33 billion target negotiators have been working toward since last week. Democrats and administration officials were miffed by the speaker’s late-breaking bid, but it was the first time the Ohio Republican has so explicitly put his name next to a number other than the $61.3 billion in cuts adopted by the House in February. And together with the president’s new stance, it sets the stage for an intense three days before government funding runs out Friday.
    Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), also present at the White House, met later Tuesday for what both sides described as a “productive” session. “The government is not going to be shut down—yet,” Reid said before closing the Senate Tuesday night. “There’s still air in the tire…I hope we have enough air in the tire to get where we need to go.”… – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Budget Talks Head to Brink Parties Far Apart on 2012 Spending, Long-Term Vision as Friday Deadline Nears: Republicans and Democrats stumbled one day closer to a government shutdown on Friday, as the two parties escalated what has become a broader battle over Washington’s role in the U.S. economy.
    Political leaders on Tuesday continued to talk past each other on federal spending, offering little evidence they could soon reach an agreement to avert a shutdown of the government this weekend. Damian Paletta has details.
    The two fights—one over funding the government for the next six months, the other over a sweeping plan to reshape the government for decades to come—showed how far apart the two parties are on basic fiscal issues ahead of the 2012 elections.
    A Tuesday White House meeting called by President Barack Obama featured a series of frustrated exchanges between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio), who upped his demand for spending cuts this year to $40 billion, according to people familiar with the session…. – WSJ, 4-5-11
  • White House, GOP fail to achieve agreement on budget: Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration were unable on Tuesday to reach a definitive budget accord that would avert a partial government “shutdown” in three days.
    President Barack Obama met at the White House with the main Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to pressure them to reach an accord on the budget for the six months that remain in Fiscal Year 2011.
    Upon exiting the meeting, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a communique that an agreement was not achieved.
    For now, the Republicans are continuing to insist on larger budget cuts and on a temporary one-week extension to keep the government functioning. But the White House does not support that strategy, taking the stance that temporary measures send the wrong message and ultimately harm efforts to move toward economic recovery…. – Fox News, 4-5-11
  • As Shutdown Looms, Agencies Brace for Its Impact: The National Zoo would close, but the lions and tigers will get fed; Yellowstone and other national parks will shut down. The Internal Revenue Service could stop issuing refund checks. Customs and Border Patrol agents training officials in Afghanistan might have to come home. And thousands of government-issued BlackBerries would go silent. This is what a government shutdown might look like.
    With budget talks between Republicans and Democrats far from resolution, official Washington braced on Tuesday for a replay of the Great Government Shutdowns of 1995 and 1996. For weeks, the Obama administration has been quietly examining the experience of the mid-1990s as a kind of shutdown survival guide. Now those preparations have kicked into high gear…. – NYT, 4-5-11


Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times
  • Shutdown Showdown: Speaker Boehner Calls on Senate to Pass Short-Term Extension: “There’s only one reason that we do not have an agreement as yet, and that issue is spending,” Boehner, R-Ohio, said. “We’re close to a resolution on the policy issues, but I think the American people deserve to know, when will the White House, and when will Senate Democrats get serious about cutting spending?”
    Boehner said “a bill that fails to include real spending cuts will hurt job growth and signal that Washington’s not serious about dealing with its spending addiction.” “I think the Senate should follow the House lead and pass the troop funding bill and do it today,” Boehner said. “I also believe the president should sign the troop funding bill into law. This is the responsible thing to do to support our troops and to keep our federal government open.”… – ABC News, 4-8-11
  • Sarah Palin: Commander in Chief’s Appalling Action with Our Troops: Yesterday the House passed H.R. 1363, which funds our Department of Defense and our military for the rest of the year at their current levels. It allows for the continuation of current military operations, which is pretty important when you’re fighting three wars. It also funds the government for another week and cuts $12 billion in wasteful spending. So why would the Commander in Chief declare that he will veto this? Why would he play politics at the expense of our troops who are putting everything on the line to protect us? Memo to the President: I doubt the insurgents will stop and wait for a government shutdown to end before resuming actions. You need to fund our troops, sir.
    Like me, you might be asking yourself: Why on earth would he threaten to veto funding for the troops? What is his game plan? Basically, he’ll veto military funding because he wants the rest of the government funded too. And by the rest of the government, he means things like Harry Reid’s “Cowboy Poetry.” Essentially, he’s holding military funding hostage to NPR funding. This is a perfect analogy for what is wrong with this entire budget showdown. Our federal government has strayed so far from what is constitutionally mandated that they are blind to the fact that NPR funding is not a constitutional duty. Funding our military at a time of war is!
    The House GOP does not want a shut down. They just want legitimate cuts (and I would argue not even enough!). If we can’t agree to cut a billion here and a billion there, we’ll never close this $1.5 trillion deficit…. – Sarah Palin on Facebook, 4-8-11
  • Mitch McConnell: ‘Let’s be very clear about this: if the government shuts down, it’s either because Democrats are pretending that a previously non-controversial provision is suddenly out of bounds. Or they refuse to take another baby step in the direction of balancing the government checkbook, something we know the American people want. Neither reason is worth a shutdown — especially when neither side actually wants one.’ – Facebook, 4-8-11
  • President Obama on Budget Talks: What’s at Stake & Why It’s Important to the American People: I just completed another meeting with Speaker Boehner and Leader Reid, and I wanted to report again to the American people that we made some additional progress this evening. I think the staffs of both the House and the Senate, as well as the White House staff, have been working very hard to try to narrow the differences. We made some progress today. Those differences have been narrowed. And so once again the staff is going to be working tonight around the clock in order to see if we can finally close a deal.
    But there is still a few issues that are outstanding. They’re difficult issues. They’re important to both sides. And so I’m not yet prepared to express wild optimism. But I think we are further along today than we were yesterday.
    I want to reiterate to people why this is so important. We’re now less than 30 hours away from the government shutting down. That means, first of all, 800,000 families — our neighbors, our friends, who are working hard all across the country in a whole variety of functions — they suddenly are not allowed to come to work. It also means that they’re not getting a paycheck. That obviously has a tremendous impact.
    You then have millions more people who end up being impacted because they’re not getting the services from the federal government that are important to them. So small businesses aren’t seeing their loans processed. Folks who want to get a mortgage through the FHA may not be able to get it, and obviously that’s not good as weak as this housing market is. You’ve got people who are trying to get a passport for a trip that they’ve been planning for a long time — they may not be able to do that. So millions more people will be significantly inconvenienced; in some ways, they may end up actually seeing money lost or opportunities lost because of a government shutdown.
    And then finally, there’s going to be an effect on the economy overall. Earlier today one of our nation’s top economists said — and I’m quoting here — “The economic damage from a government shutdown would mount very quickly. And the longer it dragged on, the greater the odds of a renewed recession.”
    We’ve been working very hard over the last two years to get this economy back on its feet. We’ve now seen 13 months of job growth; a hundred — 1.8 million new jobs. We had the best report, jobs report, that we’d seen in a very long time just this past Friday. For us to go backwards because Washington couldn’t get its act together is unacceptable.
    So, again: 800,000 federal workers and their families impacted; millions of people who are reliant on government services not getting those services — businesses, farmers, veterans; and finally, overall impact on the economy that could end up severely hampering our recovery and our ability to put people back to work.
    That’s what’s at stake. That’s why it’s important to the American people. That’s why I’m expecting that as a consequence of the good work that’s done by our staffs tonight, that we can reach an agreement tomorrow.
    But let me just point out one last thing. What I’ve said to the Speaker and what I’ve said to Harry Reid is because the machinery of the shutdown is necessarily starting to move, I expect an answer in the morning. And my hope is, is that I’ll be able to announce to the American people sometime relatively early in the day that a shutdown has been averted, that a deal has been completed that has very meaningful cuts in a wide variety of categories, that helps us move in the direction of living within our means, but preserves our investments in things like education and innovation, research, that are going to be important for our long-term competitiveness.
    That’s what I hope to be able to announce tomorrow. There’s no certainty yet, but I expect an answer sometime early in the day. WH, 4-7-11Mp4Mp3
  • REP. JOHN BOEHNER, R-Ohio, speaker of the House: We continue to have productive conversations. And you should all know they’re — they’re polite, they’re to the point. But there is no agreement on a number. There’s no agreement on the policy issues that are contained with this. We are continuing to work toward an agreement, because I do believe all of us sincerely believe that we can get to an agreement. But we are not there yet.
  • SEN. HARRY REID, D-Nev., Majority Leader: So, we’re going to continue to work to get this done. It’s not easy to do, but it’s doable. And, as I said, we don’t have a lot of time to do that. We are going to get back here at 7:00, and we hope that, that time, when we come out, we will have something done. If not, we will, of course, have to look forward to a bad day tomorrow, which is a government shutdown. –
  • John Boehner: The Commander-in-Chief has issued a veto threat on the responsible bill the House is considering that would fund our troops & keep the government from shutting down while cutting $12B. Our goal is to cut spending to create a better environment for jobs – not to shut down the government. We will send the bill to the Senate today. – Facebook, 4-7-11
  • Mitch McConnell: ‘This bill does everything Democrats have previously said they want. It cuts Washington spending by an amount that Democrat leaders believe is reasonable. The policy prescriptions it contains have been previously agreed to by Democrat leaders and signed by the President. And, most importantly, this is the only proposal out there that keeps the government open.’ – Mitch McConnell: ‘If the President wants to shut down the government over this bipartisan troop funding bill, that is his prerogative. But I would urge him to reconsider his veto threat and join us in preventing a shutdown instead.’ – Facebook, 4-7-11
  • Barack Obama: There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown. That’s not why we we’re elected. That’s not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people.
  • President Obama on the Ongoing Budget Negotiations: We just had a productive meeting with Speaker Boehner, as well as Majority Leader Reid. We discussed the impasse that we’re currently at with respect to the budget, and I thought the meetings were frank, they were constructive, and what they did was narrow the issues and clarify the issues that are still outstanding.
    I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown. But it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved. It means that people have to recognize that a government shutdown has real consequences for real people.
    There was a interview that was done tonight on one of the nightly news networks — a man from Kentucky named J.T. Henderson. He said he’s counting on his tax rebate because his family has been scraping by, and he might not get it if the government shuts down. So J.T. said if he could speak directly to all of us in Washington he’d tell us that all of this political grandstanding has effects as it trickles down to normal, everyday Americans.
    I could not have said it better myself. A shutdown could have real effects on everyday Americans. That means that small business owners who are counting on that loan to open their business, to make payroll, to expand, suddenly they can’t do it. It means folks who are potentially processing a mortgage, they may not be able to get it. It means that hundreds of thousands of workers across the country suddenly are without a paycheck. Their families are counting on them being able to go to work and do a good job.
    There are ramifications all across this economy. And at a time when the economy is still coming out of an extraordinarily deep recession, it would be inexcusable, given the relatively narrow differences when it comes to numbers between the two parties, that we can’t get this done.
    So my expectation is that folks are going to work through the night. In the morning I will check in with the respective staffs of the Speaker and the Majority Leader, as well as my team here. If we haven’t made progress, we’re going to go back at it again. And we’re going to keep on pounding away at this thing because I’m absolutely convinced that we can get this done.
    There’s no reason why we should not be able to complete a deal. There’s no reason why we should have a government shutdown — unless we’ve made a decision that politics is more important than folks like J.T. Henderson.
    That’s not why we we’re elected. That’s not why we were sent here. And I want to meet the expectations of the American people in terms of delivering for them. – WH, 4-6-11
  • Obama: ‘Inexcusable’ not to reach budget deal: Obama’s guests at last night’s budget session — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada — also expressed hope that a shutdown can be avoided.
    “We had a productive conversation and made good progress toward an agreement,” Reid said. “I am hopeful that we will be able to announce a compromise agreement soon.”
    Boehner, standing beside Reid in the White House driveway, said: “There’s an intent on both sides to continue to work together to try to resolve this … no one wants the government to shut down.”
    In the White House press room last night, Obama said, “I remain confident that if we’re serious about getting something done we should be able to complete a deal and get it passed and avert a shutdown.” “But,” he added, “it’s going to require a sufficient sense of urgency from all parties involved.”… – USA Today, 4-7-11
  • John Boehner: ‘No daylight’ between tea party and me: “Listen, there’s no daylight between the tea party and me,” the Ohio Republican said in an interview with ABC News conducted Wednesday. “None,” he said, when questioner George Stephanopoulos pushed back. “What they want is, they want us to cut spending. They want us to deal with this crushing debt that’s going to crush the future for our kids and grandkids. There’s no daylight there.”
    “Listen … my job is to do what I can do in the House,” Boehner said of the proposed one-week funding bill. “And I do believe that … it’s a reasonable chance of keeping the government open and funding our troops— at the critical time when we’ve got troops in two wars overseas.”… “The president— I’ve been begging the president for months, ‘Mr. President, let’s lock arms,’” Boehner said…. – Politico, 4-7-11
  • Rep. Ryan on Proposed Cuts: ‘Our Budget Literally Pays Off the Debt’: So the president gave us a plan that spends so much more money. He doubled the debt by the end of his first term. And he proposed to triple the debt by the end of this budget. And what we’re offering is a different direction. In our plan, our budget literally pays off the debt… – PBS Newshour, 4-5-11
  • President Obama on Budget Negotiations: “We Have Now Matched the Number the Speaker Originally Sought”: From the outset, my goal has been to significantly cut our domestic spending but, at the same time, make sure we’re making key investments in things like education, infrastructure, innovation — the things that are going to help us win the future.
    And I just want to set the context for this now. Again, I’m going to repeat. Speaker Boehner, Chairman Rogers, the Republican appropriations chairman — their original budget proposed $73 billion in cuts. We have now agreed to $73 billion worth of cuts. What they are now saying is, well, we’re not sure that every single one of the cuts that you’ve made are ones that we agree to; we’d rather have these cuts rather than that cut. That’s not the basis for shutting down the government. We should be able to come up with a compromise in which nobody gets 100 percent of what they want, but the American people get the peace of mind in knowing that folks here in Washington are actually thinking about them — because they’re going through a whole lot of struggles right now.
    The only question is whether politics or ideology are going to get in the way of preventing a government shutdown. Now, what does this potentially mean for the American people? At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow, where we’re just starting to see a pickup in employment, the last thing we need is a disruption that’s caused by a government shutdown. Not to mention all the people who depend on government services, whether you’re a veteran or you’re somebody who’s trying to get a passport or you’re planning to visit one of the national monuments or you’re a business leader who’s trying to get a small business loan. You don’t want delays, you don’t want disruptions just because of usual politics in Washington.
    So what I said to the Speaker today, and what I said to Leader Reid, and what I’ve said to the two appropriations chairs, is that myself, Joe Biden, my team, we are prepared to meet for as long as possible to get this resolved…. – WH, 4-5-11Transcript


U.S. Capitol building

The U.S. Capitol is illuminated at night as Congress continues to work to avert a government shutdown, which will happen if a budget deal is not reached by Friday before midnight. (Associated Press / April 8, 2011)


  • William Howell: How did we get to the brink of shutdown?: Regardless of whether President Obama and the party leadership within Congress manage to hash out a last minute budget deal before Friday’s deadline, and thereby avoid putting some 800,000 federal workers on furlough, it is worth reflecting on how we got to this moment of impasse.
    Some of the answer, to be sure, concerns the primary players in today’s politics. These politicians have plenty of reasons to battle it out. They genuinely disagree about the appropriate size and purposes of the federal government. They are jockeying for position in the 2012 presidential elections. And through it all, they are appealing to a divided public that is increasingly frustrated with rising deficit spending and persistent unemployment.
    The back story of today’s budget wars, however, goes deeper still. Lurking behind the parties and personalities who animate today’s politics are a set of historical trends and structural forces that are not going away any time soon…. – CNN, 4-8-11
  • Long Shutdown Would Harm U.S., Hit Washington Hardest: An extended U.S. government shutdown would cause increasing harm to the nation’s economy, with the Washington area — home to about 350,000 federal workers — bearing the brunt of the damage.
    “The economic damage would mount pretty quickly,” in a two- or three-week shutdown, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “The longer this drags on, the greater the odds it undermines confidence more broadly.”
    The direct costs of lost income to federal workers and contractors would be about $6 billion a week, said Zandi. “The dollars and cents would start to add up.”… – Bloomberg, 4-8-11
  • Gary King: 27% of communication by members of Congress is taunting, professor concludes: Now, a Harvard University professor has analyzed this tribe’s behavior, using computers to look for trends in members’ writings. And he’s learned something that might help explain why Congress is having such trouble working out a deal this week. He learned, to his amazement, that modern members of Congress spend about 27 percent of the time just taunting each other.
    “It’s jarring and surprising,” said Prof. Gary King, an expert in using computers to find patterns in large amounts of data. And, King said, probably counterproductive if we want Congress’s members to trust one another enough to make deals. “The entire government may go bankrupt, I guess. This week, right?” King said in a telephone interview. “We probably want our representatives to be listening to each other rather than calling each other names.”…. – WaPo, 4-8-11
  • Jay Newton-Small: Boehner’s Choice: John Boehner has a decision to make. And in some ways it’s akin to choosing between his children. By midnight tonight the government will shut down unless an agreement can be reached between the Speaker and President Obama. Whatever Boehner decides will have long-reaching implications for his Speakership.
    Ideally, Boehner would have preferred extending government funding by another week but Obama threatened to veto such a bill and the Democratically-controlled Senate declared it a “non-starter,” as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid put it. Boehner can, and has, made the case that the onus to prevent a shutdown was on Democrats – that he gave them a bipartisan option that they rejected (15 House Democrats voted for the measure). Sure, the extension came with a steep price tag, but negotiators had already agreed to the $12 billion in cuts. The bill would’ve also funded the military for the rest of the year, a move most in Congress would readily endorse with so many troops in harm’s way. As of last night 51 senators, including a handful of Democrats, had co-sponsored similar legislation. Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, put Boehner’s bill on the Senate schedule late last night, but it’s unlikely the extension will come up for a vote unless a broader agreement is reached…. – Time, 4-8-11
  • It’s Not Really About Spending: If the federal government shuts down at midnight on Friday — which seems likely unless negotiations take a sudden turn toward rationality — it will not be because of disagreements over spending. It will be because Republicans are refusing to budge on these ideological demands… – NYT, 4-8-11
  • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “The strategy follows the political logic of President Obama’s whole career, which is to avoid messy battles which make you appear to be a partisan,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University. “If presidential muscle is used, do it behind the scenes. And above all, appear to be a high-minded and impartial arbiter who negotiates compromises and is distinguished from the brawling demagogues in Congress.”
    “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.” –
  • Julian Zelizer: Government shutdown: How it came to this: “This is just an eyeball-to-eyeball moment where Republicans want to exercise their power,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. “And Obama is trying to defend his reputation with Democrats.”… – CNN, 4-6-11
  • Steven F. Hayward: The Ryan Express One part FDR, one part Gipper: The liberal reaction to Paul Ryan’s budget plan makes it evident that liberals are more terrified than they’ve been since Jack Kemp (one of Ryan’s mentors) advanced supply-side economics back in the late 1970s. And although Ryan may not run for president next year, it is clear that just as Ronald Reagan had to embrace the Kemp-Roth tax-cut plan in his 1980 campaign, the eventual GOP nominee will have to embrace Ryan’s budget plan if he or she is going to be taken seriously by the party, and especially the Tea Party.
    As Kemp’s understanding of supply-side economics was about more than just tax rates and revenues, Ryan’s budget architecture is about much more than just fiscal balances, and this is what terrifies liberals the most. The most interesting twist on the whole matter, though, is whether Ryan’s plan would eviscerate the welfare state (cue Nancy Pelosi, et al.), or rescue it within reasonable limits… – National Review, 4-6-11
  • DANIEL HENNINGER: A Ronald Reagan Budget Paul Ryan’s budget offers much more than deficit-reduction brimstone: Nothing like Paul Ryan’s budget, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise,” has been heard from a Republican since February 1981, when Ronald Reagan issued his presidency’s first budget message, “America’s New Beginning: A Program for Economic Recovery.” The echoes reach beyond the titles.
    Both budgets announced a clear break with the Washington status quo. Reagan reversed the policies of the Carter presidency and the infamous stagflation years of weak economic growth, 18% interest rates and 14% inflation. Reagan’s 1981 message posited four reversals: “a substantial reduction” in spending; “a significant reduction in federal tax rates”; relief from federal regulation; and “a monetary policy consistent with those policies.”… – WSJ, 4-7-11
  • Analysis: Obama shifts to play budget dealmaker, avoid blame: “If the public gets angry with a blow-up over the budget and a shutdown, the president needs to be able to say, at a minimum, that he tried,” said Julian Zelizer, history professor at Princeton University. “He wants to avoid having the anger that flowed to Republicans in 1995-1996 focus on him.”… – Reuters, 4-5-11
  • Tevi Troy Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary Plus, Paul Ryan’s budget hard-headed or inhumane?: While it has long been assumed that addressing entitlements was the dreaded “third rail of American politics,” our long-term budget woes are now so severe that a budget putting us on a path to fiscal sanity could be a political plus. Democrats will certainly demagogue Ryan’s budget, but they may find that an unwillingness to get our debt situation under control has turned into the new third rail of the 21st century…. – Politico, 4-5-11
  • Can House finance chief Paul Ryan sell his budget to Americans?: “Nobody knows who Ryan is, outside his home area,” said Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University. “I don’t think he has the clout, the charisma, the political power to do this.”
    But if Ryan has any chance of shifting the politics of these “entitlement programs,” then Sarah Binder, a professor at George Washington University, said sticking to his wonky reputation would be a good idea. “To the extent that he’s able to sort of keep his policy-wonk reputation front and center,” that helps, Binder said. She said Ryan’s best opportunity is to be seen as above party squabbling. His persuasion depends on him instead being viewed as an independent, concerned voice. “Typically, voters like short-term benefits, with the costs put off to the future,” Binder said. Ryan’s vision relies on them agreeing to short-term changes, with benefits further off. “You can’t do that without the president, and you can’t do it without the support of both parties.” – WaPo, 4-5-11
  • Julian Zelizer: Which GOP will run against Obama?: When George W. Bush finished his presidency, many observers wondered what the Republican Party would look like in the succeeding years. With Democrats in control of Congress and the White House, pundits declared the party was in crisis.
    Republicans had become too comfortable with power, critics said. They had embraced the ways and means of Washington and were as enthusiastic about federal spending as their opponents. When the Tea Party emerged on the national scene, questions about the identity of the GOP only intensified.
    Now that President Obama has officially announced his re-election campaign, it’s time to see how his opponents will position themselves. As the candidates start to emerge for 2012, it is becoming clear that the potential contenders are embracing several different traditions and approaches to Republican politics….
    The struggle over the choice of a Republican candidate for 2012 will be a struggle over the identity of the party in the post-Bush era. Republicans don’t have to choose one tradition over the other. Indeed, some politicians, such as Ronald Reagan, have brilliantly synthesized these themes together.
    But right now there is no candidate of Reagan’s caliber. This primary season will be an important one for the Republican Party in terms of explaining to Americans what the GOP is about and what exactly it would fight for if it gained back the White House. – CNN, 4-5-11 

Budget Showdown: Q & A – How Many Times in US History has the Government Shutdown Over the Budget?

HISTORY Q & A: How Many Times in US History Has the Government Shutdown Over the Budget?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University.


Night falls on the Capitol on the eve of a government shutdown in Washington, D.C.(Photo: Michael Reynolds, EPA)

Days to the start of the 2014 fiscal year Congress cannot come to an agreement for a continuing resolution that would keep the government solvent. Adding to the issue this time is not just a budget that the administration could not agree, but also the debt ceiling is reaching its limit about 15 days after the budget expires.

This is second time in Barack Obama’s presidency that a major threat loomed with the pressure of government shutdown. There have been 17 shutdowns in American history concentrated between the 1970s to the 1990s. This will be the 18th shutdown to hit Washington, and by October 17, the government would not have enough funds to meet its international loan obligations.

The government’s budget has been at the center of all previous shutdowns, and the 2013 budget battle is only different that there is the added threat of hit the debt ceiling at the same time. A budget (annual appropriation bills) needs to be passed by Congress and signed by the President prior to the commence of the new fiscal year on October 1, or continuing resolutions also known as stopgap spending bills need to be passed to keep the government operating at the prior year’s fiscal spending limits. However, if Congress fails to pass the appropriation bills, a continuing resolution, or the President vetoes or does not sign the resolution; these results in a government shutdown as there are no funds allocations to operate government.

The last and longest government shutdown in American history was when Democrat Bill Clinton was President and Newt Gingrich was the Speaker of the Republican Congress in November 1995 and in December 1995 through to January 1996. The clash over the 1996 budget caused a government shutdown for six days in the first shutdown and for 21 days during the second shutdown. High partisanship affected the budget negotiation process resulting in the shutdown. According to Charles Tien writing on continuing resolutions in Robert E. Dewhirst, John David Rausch Encyclopedia of the United States Congress, “The government has shut down (partially) a total of 11 times since 1980; the fiscal year 1996 budget battle included two lengthy shutdowns. To avoid or end a government shutdown, the president or Congress must pass either the regular appropriation bill or a continuing resolution.” (149)


  • September 30 to October 11, 1976 (10 days)
  • September 30 to October 13, 1977 (12 days)
  • October 31 to November 9, 1977 (8 days)
  • November 30 to December 9, 1977 (8 days)
  • September 30 to October 18, 1978 (18 days
  • September 30 to October 12, 1979 (11 days)

Throughout the 1970s, various agencies have had to shutdown because of budget issues. As economic problems increased throughout the 1970s, Democratic President Jimmy Carter became the first president to face the issue of budget fights in Congress leading to the threat of government shutdowns. Lowell Barrington, Michael J. Bosia, Kathleen Bruhn Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices explain Despite being a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress “As Jimmy Carter found out during his four years as president of the United States, even having a legislature controlled by your own party is no guarantee that your policies will pass quickly, or resemble the original initiatives once they do.” (240)

The whole concept of shutting down the government if a budget, appropriation bills, or continuing resolution, started with President Jimmy Carter. Charles Tien writing on continuing resolutions in Robert E. Dewhirst, John David Rausch Encyclopedia of the United States Congress explains, “Since 1980, failure to pass a CR or an appropriations bill has led to a government shutdown. In 1980 President Jimmy Carter’s administration, in reevaluating a law passed in 1870, the Anti-deficiency Act ruled that agencies without appropriations had to close operations. The 1870 law said that “[I]t shall not lawful for any department of the government to expend in any one fiscal year any sum in excess of appropriations made by Congress for that fiscal year, or to involve the government in any contract for the future payment of money in a excess of appropriations.” The Carter administrations ruling of the 1870 Anti-deficiency Act required Agencies without appropriations to shut down immediately.”(149)

Congress used the law to shut down operations at the FTC in 1980. Tien explains; “The first agency to ever shut down for a lapse in appropriations was the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC shutdown for one day in 1980 because Congress refused to pass a full-year appropriation for the agency until it had authorizing legislation.” (149)


  • November 20 to November 23, 1981 (2 days)
  • September 30 to October 2, 1982 (1 day)
  • December 17 to December 21, 1982 (3 days)
  • November 10 to November 14, 1983 (3 days)
  • September 30 to October 3, 1984 (2 days)
  • October 3 to October 5, 1984 (1 day)
  • October 16 to October 18, 1986 (1 day)
  • December 18 to December 20, 1987 (1 day)

The trend of government showdowns and shutdowns over the budget did not slow with the election of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The introduction of Keynesian supply-side economics to the Federal government, differing economic philosophies regarding spending, and an increase of partisanship between Democrats and Republicans accounted for the succession of government shutdowns throughout the 1980s.

During the Reagan administration, the government spent the most time on the brink of government closures. Steven Hayward writes in The Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution 1980-1989; “Unable to agree on a budget, Congress passed a “continuing resolution” in November to keep the government running at current levels. Reagan cast his first veto and brieftly shut down the government, in a pattern that would repeat itself much of the next six years (and which was repeated most dramatically during Bill Clinton’s presidency in 1995).” (188)

It was a battle that began from the onset of the administration and spanning the administration’s two terms. Reagan and David Stockman worked to implement and impose his economic policies on Congress from the very start of his administration, causing friction.

The most remembered government shutdown in the Reagan Administration was in 1981. Tien explains that “President Ronald Reagan’s administration used the shutdown guidelines the following year when Reagan vetoed a continuing resolution that resulted in a three-day broader government shutdown.” (149) After short closures in 1981, 1984, 1985, and 1986, the government again faced similar situation in 1987 a closures were averted.

The Reagan administration in presenting and pursuing the passing of their first federal budget in 1981 looked to cut taxes, and cut spending in order to reduce the deficit and balance the budget. Reagan’s economic solution was a program entitled “America’s New Beginning”; a expansive program that would cut taxes, and spending across the board including social programs in order to reduce the swelling deficit, and infuse the lagging economic situation with life. The 1982 deficit was estimated to reach $109 billion.

Reagan in presenting his 1982 budget pleaded with the American people in a televised address; “Our immediate challenge is to hold down the deficit in the fiscal year that begins next week. A number of threats are now appearing that will drive the deficit upward if we fail to act… And without further cuts, we can’t achieve our goal of a balance budget by 1984…. I’m asking all of you who joined in this crusade to save our economy to help again, to let your representatives know that you will support them in making the hard decisions to further reduce the cost and size of government.” (187) Senator Ted Kennedy gave the Democratic response, “This is the government of the rich, by the rich for the rich.” Summing up that the Democratic Congress was not interested in cutting the deficit or spending especially when it came to social programs.

The Reagan administration looked to cut spending in the upcoming 1982 budget. However, as the economy became increasingly worse by September and the Democratic Congress inability to find areas to cut that would have limited impact to rely upon social programs, there was an impass. Reagan reduced the numbers to 13 billion and then again by late October to half that amount, 7-8 billion, without any tax raises, and finally to meet Congress halfway at 4 billion and no less.

Nov 23, 1981: The spending feud between the Republican President Reagan and the Democratic Congress led to a shutdown. The November 20 deadline for a stop gap spending bill was on a Friday, however the House-Senate Conference delayed it to the following Monday to finalize a bill. The compromise bill consisted of 4 billion in spending savings/cuts, by reducing 2 percent of government spending. The White House in reviewing the numbers claimed there would only be 2 billion in savings from the proposed cuts. When presented with the bill in the morning, Reagan refused to sign Congress’s continuing resolution.

Reporting in the New York Times stated; “President Reagan vetoed the measure as “budget-busting.” Faced with the “difficult choice” of either signing the bill or disrupting Government services, the President said, “I have chosen the latter.”  Reagan’s veto led to a shutdown in the government for the afternoon, forcing 400,000 of the 2.1 million federal employees home. Congress approved a stop gap spending bill which later the same day Reagan signed, ending the shutdown with work resuming the next morning. Only on December 12, 1981, did the Congress and and President Reagan approve an Omnibus spending bill, “setting the spending ceilings for the entire year, except in foreign aid. Thus, although the continuing resolution will be superseded by enactment of individual appropriation bills.” (NYT, 12-13-1981, pg. 80)

The one day shutdown cost the government $65 million with a total of 670,000 workers furloughed. A worker who came to work as part of the essential government workers described it as a “snow day without snow…. People come to work sit around confused worry about their car pools, then maybe get interviewed on television.” (NYT, 12-15-1985, pg. D23)

Oct. 4 1984: Congress failed to pass a stopgap money bill, when a new budget was not passed for the new fiscal year. On October 4th500,000 civil servants out of the 2.9 million civil servants where sent home from their jobs; leading to a partial shutdown. An emergency spending bill passed, which Reagan signed, and normal government operations continued the next morning. Both times the shutdowns were limited in their implications and impacts.

Nov 11, 1985: In Reagan’s second term the government again faced a shutdown. Congress could not agree over a budget agreement, and the need to extend the federal borrowing limit, beyond the limit which was 1,823 trillion, which contradicted plans to balance the budget by 1991.

Oct. 17, 1986: The Democratic Congress and the Presidency’s inability to agree on a new fiscal budget led to another half day furlough. Congress had also failed to come to an agreement and pass a spending bill. At Midday 500,000 non-essential federal employees were forced home. An emergency spending bill passed, returning employees the next day to work.


  • October 5 to October 9, 1990 (3 days)

All previous government shutdowns lasted only short periods of time, in 1990 that changed under Reagan’s successor and former Vice President, and then President George H.W. Bush when the government experienced its longest shutdown. In October 1990 the government was shut down a total of three days, because of Democratic Congress and the Republican President could not agree on a budget for 1991. As signs of economic problems were visible on the horizon, the battle was centered on the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act to balance the budget.

Democrats wanted to increase taxes on the nation’s richest to reduce the ballooning deficit, but in the 1988 campaign Bush had promise he would not increase any taxes across the board. Bush threatened to veto any budget that Congress presented to him that included a tax increase.
Oct. 6, 1990: President Bush made good on his veto threat; with the budget vetoed and without a continuing resolution agreed upon, the government was shut down throughout the three day Columbus Day weekend. Both the President and Congress wanted to limit the negative impact of a shutdown, and they agreed the new budget would not include any surtax or tax increases. Over the weekend President Bush then signed a continuance, and government opened on Tuesday morning.

The closure during the holiday weekend, limited the impact a three day closure would had on running the government, had it been closed for three days during the week. Bush was however, was forced to agree to tax increases, going against his main campaign pledge. The President signed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990 on November 5, 1990 securing a budget for the fiscal year.


  • November 13  to November 19, 1995 (5 days)
  • December 5, 1995 to January 6, 1996 (21 days)

The 1995-1996 shutdowns were the longest amid the most heated battle over the budget between Congress and the President. President Clinton chose to veto several appropriation bills in the 1996 budget, at issue was funding amounts for social programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, public health, education, and the environment, all programs Clinton pledged to maintain to the public, however, the Republicans wanted Clinton to submit a seven year plan for a balanced budget. The Republican Congress could have voted on a continuance to keep the government operating on the previous fiscal years spending limits. However, the Republican controlled Congress looked to shut down the government hoping the public would blame the Democratic President, leading to a Republican victory in the next year’s Presidential election.

Many believed Gingrich was motivated by revenge as opposed to policy when allowed the shutdown to occur, Senator Tom Delay in his memoirNo Retreat, No Surrender wrote, “He told a room full of reporters that he forced the shutdown because Clinton had rudely made him and Bob Dole sit at the back of Air Force One… (After Yizhak Rabin’s funeral, where Clinton refused to discuss the budget as well on the flight) Newt had been careless to say such a thing, and now the whole moral tone of the shutdown had been lost. What had been a noble battle for fiscal sanity began to look like the tirade of a spoiled child. The revolution, I can tell you, was never the same.” Throughout the shutdown Clinton suffered in the polls, but in the end the backlash was against the Republicans instead, whose popularity waned after the shutdowns, and in the 1996 election they actually lost 5 seats in the Congress to Democrats.

Nov 13, 1995: The first shutdown commenced at midnight on November 13, 2005, after a last minute attempt to avert the shut down; Clinton, Gingrich, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, and Senator Bob Dole met, but failed to reach a compromise. Clinton described the negotiations in his memoirs, My Life; “Armey replied gruffly that if I didn’t give in to them, they would shut the government down and my presidency would be over. I shot back, saying I would never allow their budget to become law, “even if I drop to 5 percent in the polls. If you want your budget, you’ll have to get someone else to sit in this chair!” Not surprisingly, we didn’t make a deal.” At the midnight, a partial shutdown led to 800,000 “nonessential employees” being sent home or told not to come into to work, with only emergency government services remained open. This represented 42 percent of the civil servants employed. The shutdown only ceased with an agreement on a temporary spending bill.

Dec 16, 1995-Jan 5, 1996: When the temporary funding measures expired, and no continuance was yet again signed, the government shut down this time for 14 days from December 16, 1995 and finally ending on January 5, 1996; the longest shutdown period in US history. Although Congress enacted resolutions to end the shutdown and another temporary spending bill was signed ending the 21 day partial government shut down, the government did not go back to fully functioning until April. Clinton agreed to submit a seven year balanced budget plan approved by the Congressional Budget Office to ensure the government would keep running after the January 26, 1996 spending extension end date. With the agreement, Clinton declared ‘The era of big government is over.’

In 1990 and in 1995, 1996, the budget battles and their subsequent shutdowns forced compromises, especially on the side of the President more than Congress. In 1990 Bush had to agree to tax increases, while in 1996, Clinton had to agree to a seven year balanced budget plan. Bush going against his campaign pledge lost his 1992 bid for re-election, Clinton however, escaped with a higher approval rating for his handling of the 1996 budget showdown, and was re-elected later that same year, while Republicans heavily shouldered the blame for the shutdowns.


  • April 2011

President Obama and Congress were able to avert a shutdown during the last battle in April 2011, when at issue was the 7 million difference between the Democrats proposed 33 million and the Republicans 40 million in spending cuts. The President was willing to negotiate with Congress; discussions and reasoning averted a crisis at the last moment.

  • October 1, 2013

The U.S. began shutting down the government on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013 at midnight after the battling Republican controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic controlled Senate could not agree on a continuing resolution, a stop-gap spending bill to keep the government funded for the new fiscal year. At the core of the conflict is the Senate and President Barack Obama wanting a “clean bill” without out any provisions, while the House has been insisting on some provisions to delays aspects of Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, the new healthcare law which is beginning to be formally implemented and ready for individuals and families to start enrolling in also on Oct. 1, 2013.

With time run out and negotiations played out by Congress, the Office of Management and Budget’s Director Sylvia Mathews Burwell formally sent out a memo late Monday evening for all government agencies to begin the first government shut down in 17 years, stating that “agencies should now execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations.” Approximately 800,000 federal employees will be furloughed as a result of the shutdown.

One aspect is almost certain, 2013 will be added to the list of recent government shutdowns over a budget battle, while only time will tell the long term political ramifications such a shutdown at a time when the economy is slowly recovering.

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