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Next Up: The Debt Limit And The 2012 Budget

<strong>Well, Since It's Open</strong>: President Obama paid a surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, after a last-gasp deal prevented a government shutdown. But Democrats and Republicans will have to resolve even larger budget issues in the coming months.
Jewel Samad
AFP/Getty Images
Well, Since It's Open: President Obama paid a surprise visit to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, after a last-gasp deal prevented a government shutdown. But Democrats and Republicans will have to resolve even larger budget issues in the coming months.

President Barack Obama quietly signed a short-term continuing resolution spending bill Saturday that will pay for the federal government to continue operating through next Friday. The measure is the first piece of a bipartisan agreement to cut billions in spending and avoid the first government shutdown in 15 years.

Obama signed the temporary extension in private; the White House announced it with a news release.

The measure will keep the federal government running long enough for Congress to hold a vote later this coming week on the budget deal reached hours before Friday's midnight deadline by Obama, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).


If approved, the budget compromise would keep the government open through the remaining six months in the 2011 budget year, while cutting $38 billion in federal spending.

Pushing For Further Cuts

Boehner has been credited with a victory for getting Democrats in Congress and the White House to agree to more cuts than they had initially proposed. Still, some Republicans think the deal falls short of their goals.

Freshman Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI), who was elected with support from the Tea Party, tells NPR's Scott Simon that he's not sure he'll vote to approve the full spending bill.

Saying that the bill doesn't go far enough to reduce federal spending, Huizenga said, "We had outpatient surgery last night. What we need is a heart transplant. We have got to get more serious about this."


Huizenga said that he voted for the short-term resolution for two reasons.

"One, because it pays our troops," he said. "I think it's absolutely an abomination that our troops are having any doubt in their mind" about whether they would be paid.

The other reason for approving the measure, Huizenga said, is to give both him and the American public time to review the larger legislation.

The Democratic Reaction

The budget compromise was hailed by Reid for containing a "historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year." Still, not all Democrats are giving their full support to the deal.

Early Saturday, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) released a statement saying, "The American people have been told the agreement contains both 'historic' and 'painful' cuts. The question will be painful for whom."

And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she and her colleagues "look forward to reviewing the components of the final funding measure" to determine how it will affect the middle class, according to The Wall Street Journal.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Obama called the budget deal "good news for the American people."

The president said that after the budget issue is resolved, "it's my sincere hope that we can continue to come together as we face the many difficult challenges that lie ahead."

The Public Reaction: Not Overwhelmed

The news that a government shutdown would be avoided was welcomed by those hoping to use federal park services this weekend — like the tourists who came to Washington, D.C., for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.

But there was also a sense that politicians were not to be congratulated for allowing the budget impasse to reach that point.

"It makes America look bad," said Carolyn Dempsey, who was visiting from New Jersey with her husband, Brian, and their three children.

"If the government can't get together and decide on a budget, then America does lose," she said, "and it makes our government look like they don't know what they're doing. And it's very disappointing."

Brian Dempsey said that he couldn't see a good reason for the standoff — and that it amounted to a lot of finger-pointing over ridiculous things.

"It makes the rest of the country think that Washington is out of touch with what the rest of the country needs," he said.

For federal employee Michael Anderson of Springfield, Va., news of the deal put an end to the stress that had been building as the deadline neared.

Anderson said that after he learned Saturday morning that he would be reporting to work for his job at the Bureau of Land Management on Monday, "I did my little Super Bowl dance to myself."

Coming Next: The Debt Limit, And 2012

With a shutdown averted, two more large budget issues will demand Washington's attention in the coming months. The U.S. Treasury has told Congress it must vote to raise the debt limit by this summer — Secretary Tim Geithner says the federal government will hit its limit on borrowing by May 16.

And soon, Congress will turn to the 2012 budget.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says the budget compromise is relatively small change compared to the fights ahead.

While the current reductions deal with numbers in the billions, McConnell said, "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."

Republicans say they hope to use the debt limit issue to force Obama to accept their measures to reduce the deficit.

Of those upcoming debates, fiscal policy expert J.D. Foster of the conservative Heritage Foundation tells NPR's Liz Halloran, "The middleweight fight is going to be over the 2012 budget resolution. And the heavyweight match will be over the debt limit."

NPR's Ari Shapiro and Tamara Keith contributed to this report, which contains material from The Associated Press.

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