Budget agreement finalized

A potential government shutdown was avoided on Friday, April 15, when President Barack Obama signed the budget agreement that outlines federal spending for the remainder of the fiscal year. The agreement was reached and sent for voting late on April 8, an hour before the government shutdown would have occurred.

The agreement will cut spending by $38.5 billion and will fund the federal government through Sept. 30. Programs like the National Endowment for the Arts, the high-speed rail and emergency first responders will be affected by these cuts.

Congress also voted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood and Obama’s health care plan; both measures passed in the House but were defeated in the Senate, which is dominated by Democrats.

Citing education as one of his priorities, President Obama said in a speech that colleges are largely spared by the spending cuts, as is medical research.

“We protected the investments we need to win the future,” Obama said.

According to the White House blog, the Bill will keep the Pell Grant maximum at its current number—$5,550. In doing so, the bill ensures that colleges and universities will not have to rescind or reduce financial aid offers to families, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

The President signed the agreement, which was passed by both houses of Congress on April 14, despite harboring objections to two sections of the agreement.

According to CNN, the two sections “prohibit the use of funds to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States and to move detainees into the custody of foreign countries unless specific conditions are met.”

In a speech given after he signed the agreement, the President said, “I have signed this act because of the importance of avoiding a lapse in appropriations for the federal government … the remainder of fiscal year 2011.”

That is not to say that Obama does not have the intention of adjusting the act, however.

“My administration will work with the Congress to seek repeal of these restrictions, will seek to mitigate their effects, and will oppose any attempt to extend or expand them in the future,” Obama said.

According to CNN, on April 13 the Congressional Budget Office indicated that only $352 million of the proposed $38.5 billion in savings will be realized in this fiscal year.

On April 14, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, stated that all of the cuts will eventually take place, but over a longer period of time than many House members expected.