Local workers, lawmakers react to fed budget deal

April 9, 2011 8:55:40 PM PDT
A late night deal prevented a federal shutdown and Congress will come back next week and vote on the compromise.

In the end, the deal struck cuts $38.5 billion from the 2011 federal budget.

If negotiations had failed Friday night, about 800,000 government workers would have been furloughed -- and a range of government services would have come to a halt.

The deal came together after six grueling weeks of negotiations.

From local politicians to local workers, there is plenty of reaction Saturday night to the budget deal.

To union leader John O'Grady, the 11th hour budget agreement is no cause for celebration.

"My reaction is shame on Congress and shame on the administration. They left it to this dramatic confrontation between both parties over really political riders and not the subject of finances," said O'Grady, the president of AFGE Local 704.

Still, many Chicago-area federal workers are breathing easier this weekend.

"There's a big relief for many federal employees right now because of the fact that the government did not shut down," said Department of Labor employee Brent Barron.

The American Federation of Government Employees Local 648 union leader joins the nearly 50,000 federal workers in the Chicago area not laid off thanks to the government shutdown that didn't happen.

"We wanted to see that the government shutdown was averted. It's not just about the working people, the union members who fill those jobs were going to go on furlough and be out of work, but it's about the vital services the federal government provides for the citizens of this country," said Bob Riter, secretary and treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

"It is an age old struggle and they're willing to have a showdown threatening a shutdown is unnecessary. But make no mistake about it -- it's on the backs of poor people," said Rev. Jesse Jackson with Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Had a deal not been reached, the government would have had to suspend many federal services -- closing everything from national parks to tax-season help centers.

One provision in the final deal would ban the use of federal or local government funds to pay for abortions in the District of Columbia.

Federal funding is also cut that would implement the year-old health care law.

The major sticking point, however, was federal funding of family planning and Planned Parenthood.

"Putting Planned Parenthood in the middle is an attack on women's healthcare. We really feel like women's healthcare was held hostage to avoid a government shutdown," said Carole Brite with Planned Parenthood of Illinois.

Illinois lawmakers have mixed reactions to the deal.

"The good news is the government stays open, the troops are paid, and this is the largest cut of a budget in the history of the United States," said U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill. "Ultimately, there was a desire to get something done, and I think everybody came together, and reasonable people prevailed."

"Anyone who thinks it was about dollars and cents, it wasn't. It was about an ideological agenda to shut down the government going after women's health care," said U.S. Rep Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.

"We need to cut spending to it in this way, and end the debate and begin to deal with the 2012 issues," said U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill.

At the end of the day, however, all sides claimed victory.

The accomplishment has now set the stage for even tougher confrontations.

According to published reports, Republicans intend to pass a 2012 budget through the House of Representatives next week that calls for sweeping changes in Medicare and Medicaid, and would cut domestic programs deeply in an attempt to gain control over soaring deficits.

That debate could come soon.

The treasury has told Congress it must vote to raise the debt limit by summer -- a request that Republicans hope to use to force President Barack Obama to accept long-term deficit-reduction measures.