US government shutdown averted in last-minute deal

Saturday, April 9, 2011

US House Speaker John Boehner

US lawmakers have reached a last-minute deal to avoid a government shutdown, which would have begun at 12:00 EDT (04:00 UTC) Saturday. The agreement, announced just one hour before the shutdown was to occur, includes US$38.5 billion in budget reductions.

"Behind me through the window you can see the Washington Monument. [...] Tomorrow, I'm pleased to announce the Washington Monument as well as the entire federal government will be open for business," said US President Barack Obama of the deal, which was reached only after several days of discussion. Earlier on Friday, US legislators deflected claims that a midnight deal was being worked out, but Republican Party sources later reported that a deal was likely to be reached.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) announced late Friday night that he was glad that both political parties were able to "come to an agreement that will in fact cut spending and keep [the US] government open." The deal was apparently reached after disputes over government funding for organizations such as Planned Parenthood were resolved. Boehner said both sides decided on a six-day extension, or "bridge," of government funding, which would allow Congress to work out a final solution to last the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year, which ends in September. Voting for the resulting agreement will take place some time next week, according to Boehner.

The last complete US government shutdown occurred in 1995, during the administration of Bill Clinton, lasting five days; it was proceeded by a 21-day partial shutdown. In the event of a government shutdown, essential federal employees are still required to work, but nonessential personnel are placed on unpaid furloughs. Essential staff include military personnel, air traffic controllers, emergency officials, and intelligence officials.