Long dance that ended in a deal to avoid a government shutdown

Americans have just witnessed two things in the run-up to the agreement made last night to avert a government shutdown:

a) just how divided our nation really is…and…

b) we have just witnessed the beginning stages of a protracted 2012 campaign and the jockeying for position of dominance and relevance from both parties.


—The low point may have come Thursday night.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had spent more than an hour meeting with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, inching toward a deal to avert a shutdown, but he kept insisting that it include a prohibition against federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

That was a nonstarter for Obama. As the meeting was breaking up, Vice President Joe Biden told the speaker, in no uncertain terms, that his demand was unacceptable. If that became the deal breaker, Biden said, he would “take it to the American people,” who would presumably punish the GOP for shutting down the government over an ideological issue.

“They were faced with a choice — they would either have to give in or shut down the government,” said a senior administration official, describing how the negotiations went from there.

In the end, Boehner agreed to a package of $38.5 billion in cuts, a significant victory for a man who said his goal was to extract as much as possible from the federal budget. He also won limited victories on a handful of policy riders attached to the bill. But Boehner was forced to abandon some major demands, including Planned Parenthood, restrictions on the Environmental Protection Agency and efforts to restrict Obama’s health reform bill.

Administration officials cast the deal as proof Obama and Boehner can forge a longer-lasting relationship to negotiate the perils of divided government, but it was a rough week punctuated by several near deals, a few blow-ups and a resolution that came 90 minutes before the government shuttered.

“It’s been a long dance,” said an Obama aide involved in the talks.

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