Last minute deal nixes government shutdown

The U.S. Congress finished a tentative budget deal hours before deadline.

Conor Shine

A last-minute deal struck by Congress and the White House late Friday night averted a federal government shutdown that would have furloughed thousands of federal employees and threatened research operations at universities nationwide.
The tentative budget deal came hours before the midnight deadline when funding for government services would have run out. The bill, which will be finalized mid-week, will cut $38 billion in spending this year and sets up a larger battle over next yearâÄôs budget.
During a shutdown, all non-essential government functions would have ceased, federal offices would have been closed and federal employees would not have been paid. National parks and museums would also have closed, and the IRS would have stopped processing tax returns.
Going into Friday, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress were at odds over the bill. With Republicans pushing for deeper cuts and Democrats seeking to protect federal funding for family planning services, the first government shutdown in 15 years seemed imminent.
In remarks after the deal was made, President Barack Obama said the cuts would be painful, but the bill also invested in education, student loans and clean energy.
âÄúToday Americans of different beliefs came together again,âÄù Obama said. âÄúLike any worthwhile compromise, both sides had to make tough decisions and give ground on issues that were important to them.âÄù
Funding for family planning services was ultimately protected, but Congress must now move on to negotiations for the next fiscal yearâÄôs budget, which starts in October.
University of Minnesota political science professor Kathryn Pearson said many of the issues at the heart of this budget standoff could be brought up again over the coming months.
âÄúThey disagree on a lot of issues,âÄù she said. âÄúIâÄôm sure that both sides are thinking about these cuts with an eye towards next year.âÄù
Striking the deal now allows Congress to turn its focus to next yearâÄôs budget, Pearson said, and it will serve as a framework for future negotiations.
âÄúThereâÄôs still two budget cycles to go with the current Congress,âÄù she said. âÄúOnce cuts are made, itâÄôs easier to produce a budget that relies on last yearâÄôs numbers.âÄù
At the University, the shutdown threatened the flow of more than $400 million in federal research funds the school receives annually.
The University spent Friday preparing for the shutdown and working to decipher federal directives trickling down from different agencies, but Associate Vice President for Research Administration Pamela Webb said much of the information coming in was unclear.
âÄúThe problem right now is we donâÄôt have complete information,âÄù Webb said Friday before the deal was struck. âÄúWeâÄôre trying to get to the bottom of that.âÄù
Passport offices would also have closed, making it difficult for foreign academics to visit the University and for University professors to travel abroad, she said.

-The Associated Press contributed to this report