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Congress Sends Budget Deal to Obama's Desk

The country is officially out of the government-shutdown woods, now that Congress has passed the budget deal reached last week. Today both the House and Senate voted on the measure, which cuts $35.8 billion from the 2011 budget. The only step left is getting President Obama's signature.

Although neither side got everything it wanted out of the deal, with Democrats making steeper cuts than expected and Republicans forgoing demands to de-fund Planned Parenthood, the government is at least on track to keep running smoothly.

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But … according to the Congressional Budget Office, that $35.8 billion in savings is more like $352 million. Some of the money that lawmakers counted in their tally wasn't actually intended to be spent this year, and other savings were offset by contingency war funding. The Associated Press reports:

The Congressional Budget Office estimate shows that compared with current spending rates the spending bill due for a House vote Thursday would cut federal outlays from non-war accounts by just $352 million through Sept. 30. About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending.

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When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels.

To a fair degree, the lack of immediate budget-cutting punch is because the budget year is more than half over and that cuts in new spending authority typically are slow to register on deficit tallies. And Republicans promise that when fully implemented and repeated year after year, the cuts in the measure would reduce the deficit by $315 billion over the coming decade.

Still, the analysis is an early lesson about Washington budgeting for junior lawmakers elected last year on promises to swiftly attack the deficit.

So after all the head-butting and theatrics of last week, the actual net amount of cuts is $352 million. This gives Republicans far less of a victory than they thought and will likely make negotiations that much tougher on the 2012 budget. The saga continues …

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In other news: Black Journalism Pioneer Tells All.

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