Waiting until the 11th hour (literally)

WAITING UNTIL THE 11TH HOUR (LITERALLY)…. For better or for worse, you can’t say these folks lack a flair for the dramatic. With less than an hour to go before an expected government shutdown, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released a joint statement on their budget agreement.

“We have agreed to an historic amount of cuts for the remainder of this fiscal year, as well as a short-term bridge that will give us time to avoid a shutdown while we get that agreement through both houses and to the President. We will cut $78.5 billion below the President’s 2011 budget proposal, and we have reached an agreement on the policy riders. In the meantime, we will pass a short-term resolution to keep the government running through Thursday. That short-term bridge will cut the first $2 billion of the total savings.”

As we discussed earlier, this $78.5 billion may seem confusing, given that we’ve all been talking about a different parameter of numbers, but the joint statement refers to the White House’s 2011 budget plan as a baseline.

Using the more common framework, the parties agreed to $38.5 billion in cuts — more than the $32 billion in cuts House Republican leaders requested at the start of the process, but less than the $61 billion in cuts that the House GOP actually approved.

It’s not yet clear exactly what will be cut — one of those pesky questions that’s regularly ignored in the larger shuffle — but the ink is still drying and more details will be available soon.

President Obama, speaking this evening from the White House, called the package a “worthwhile compromise.”

As for the Republicans’ sought after culture-war riders, they’re not part of the agreement, but the Senate will hold stand-alone votes on Planned Parenthood defunding, and perhaps a few related items, all of which will fail.

Lawmakers will scramble this evening to approve a brief extension that will fund the government for a six days, and get it to the president’s desk in the next 35 minutes.

I’ll have plenty of additional coverage in the morning, but for now, four quick thoughts. One, I’m very glad the government didn’t shut down. Two, the right-wing is already starting to whine about the deal, but for conservatives to complain about this agreement is ridiculous.

Three, taking $38.5 billion out of the economy right now strikes me as a reckless idea.

And four, I can’t even remember the last time I heard policymakers talk about creating jobs instead of cutting spending — 8.8% unemployment remains a jobs crisis, to my mind — which is a reminder about the success Republicans had in setting the terms of this debate early on, and they never looked back.