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59° Good Morning

Obama, Boehner, split the difference

WASHINGTON -- Rivals in a divided government, President Barack Obama and the most powerful Republican in Congress split their differences to stave off a federal shutdown that neither was willing to risk.

Their compromise is the result of a battle pitting the enduring power of the presidential veto and the White House soapbox -- despite a "shellacking" in the last election -- against a strong-willed GOP House speaker vaulted into office by a voter revolt against Washington's free-spending ways.

The resulting measure will bleed about $40 billion from the day-to-day budgets of domestic agencies over just the next six months, the biggest rollback of such government programs in history.

This allows Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to claim his GOP shock troops had put cabinet department operating budgets on track toward levels in place before Obama took office. In the end, the White House had to meet Boehner more than halfway on spending.

On the other side was a strong-willed Obama, who mostly succeeded in forcing Republicans to give in on dozens of controversial conservative policy prescriptions -- including rolling back environmental protections and cutting off Planned Parenthood from taxpayer assistance, while protecting favored programs such as education, clean energy and medical research. The results, taken together, pleased core Democratic constituencies of environmentalists and women.

It was, in short, the type of split-the-differences deal that a political scientist might have predicted from the start, given the divided government.

There are few details available regarding the pending appropriations bill, which would fund federal agencies through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. It's still being put together.

But aides said the measure avoids cuts to the IRS, though Obama's hoped-for increases were denied. Cuts to college Pell Grants were restored, as were cuts to health research. Large cuts to foreign aid were tamed.

Anti-abortion lawmakers won a provision to block taxpayer-funded abortions in the District of Columbia. And Boehner won funding for a personal initiative to provide federally funded vouchers for District of Columbia students to attend private schools.

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