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Tough Talk, Wary Deals, And Finally, No Shutdown


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

If you were planning to visit the cliff dwellings from 13th century at Tonto National Monument in Arizona this weekend, or are waiting on a small business loan, U.S. government is open for business.

Midnight was the shutdown deadline for budget resolution. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports the parties reached a final deal literally in the 11th hour.

ARI SHAPIRO: President Obama does not usually make speeches in the White House blue room. It's basically a living room, not especially ornate. But there was a special reason he spoke from there last night. The view over his shoulder.

President BARACK OBAMA: Behind me through the window you can see the Washington Monument visited each year by hundreds of thousands from around the world.

SHAPIRO: He said the monument teaches a lesson about what America is.

President BARACK OBAMA: A land of many that has always found a way to move forward as one.

SHAPIRO: That poetry capped weeks of ugly prose and grinding numbers. All night horse-trading sessions, antagonistic press conferences, and tense negotiations.

As recently as Thursday night, the vice president lost his patience. Republicans and Democrats could not agree over policy riders about the environment, women's health and other controversial issues.

According to several administration officials, President Obama kept saying he would never agree to those provisions, but Republicans kept insisting on them. On Thursday night, Vice President Biden snapped at the Republican negotiators saying, if this is not going to be a spending bill, we're just going to have to take it to the American people.

Ultimately, this final agreement does not include those riders. It does include deeper cuts than Democrats wanted. More than $38 billion, up from the $33 billion that Democrats were talking about all week long.

Last night House Speaker John Boehner gave a brief statement applauding the agreement.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio; Speaker of the House): As you all know, 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.

SHAPIRO: Administration officials say there will be real challenges implementing these cuts, but ultimately they say the president was able to protect key areas that were most important to him such as education and innovation.

Senate majority leader Harry Reid said this didn't happen an hour before the deadline for drama, it went to the final hour because negotiations actually took that long.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada; Majority Leader): It has not been an easy process. Both sides have had to make tough choices, but tough choice is what this job's all about.

SHAPIRO: Congress has also already passed a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government until Thursday so Congress can make this agreement into law.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged that this deal is relatively small change compared to the fights ahead.

Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Kentucky; Minority Leader): 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.

SHAPIRO: Those fights over 2012 funding and raising the national debt ceiling have already begun. This budget negotiation may have been the first major test of divided government, but it won't be the last or the toughest.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.