Government shutdown averted in last-minute deal

By CBS News

With just one hour to go before a government shutdown would have gone into effect, lawmakers reached a compromise late Friday after agreeing to the largest annual spending reduction in U.S. history. The compromise means NASA and other federal agencies will remain open and work to process the shuttle Endeavour for launch April 29 on a space station assembly mission will continue on schedule.

Speaker of the House John Boehner discusses a budget compromise late Monday that averted a government shutdown. (Credit: CBS News)
"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," House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a joint statement.

"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."

With a shutdown looming, NASA and other federal agencies had put plans in place to close down non-critical operations and to furlough thousands of federal employees starting at midnight Friday. NASA managers said earlier in the week that space station operations would continue in near-normal fashion, but work to ready Endeavour for launch would be halted.

Because of a recent launch delay from April 19 to April 29, NASA has about nine days of contingency time in the shuttle's processing flow and agency officials said a work stoppage and furlough would not have an impact on launch unless a shutdown extended beyond around April 18.

With the late night compromise -- and assuming new spending legislation is passed next week -- shuttle processing will continue apace.

"Tomorrow, I'm pleased to announce that the Washington Monument, as well as the entire federal government, will be open for business," President Barack Obama said late Friday. "And that's because today, Americans of different beliefs came together again.

"In the final hours before our government would have been forced to shut down, leaders in both parties reached an agreement will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they apply for and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up for work, and take home their paychecks on time, including our brave men and women in uniform."

Additional details are available on the CBS News Political Hotsheet web page.