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Federal employees, military families breathe sigh of relief

By the CNN Wire Staff
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House Speaker: We have a deal
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Democrats and Republicans in Washington reach a deal to avert a shutdown
  • The short-term deal will fund government through the middle of next week
  • Had a shutdown occurred, 800,000 government workers would have been furloughed

Washington (CNN) -- An 11th-hour deal reached late Friday in Washington means hundreds of thousands of federal employees will stay on the job and the public will be able to get passports, visit national parks and receive other federal services.

"The government will be open for business," President Barack Obama said.

Democrats and Republicans agreed on a budget deal and a short-term funding extension a little more than an hour before a partial government shutdown would have occurred. The short-term deal will fund the government through the middle of next week.

Without the agreement, the government's massive gears would have come to a halt early Saturday, limiting federal services and payrolls.

If the negotiations had failed, approximately 800,000 government workers would have been furloughed.

Military families had worried about the future of their income.

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A deal reached on budget
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"I'm just really elated," Kasey Long of Jacksonville, North Carolina, said after hearing news of the deal.

Her husband, a Marine sergeant at Camp Lejeune, is deployed overseas and is the family's sole breadwinner. The family was living paycheck to paycheck and concerned about making ends meet, Long said late Friday.

"It takes a lot of stress off of me," said Long, with lives with their 15-year-old son. "My husband loves what he does and he serves his country."

Military personnel should not "serve on an IOU," said Babette Maxwell, co-founder of Military Spouse magazine, earlier in the evening. "We have mortgages and bills to pay."

Fred Thevenin said his rafting business in the Grand Canyon had stood to lose $60,000 on Saturday.

Arizona Raft Adventures offers 16-day rafting tours, which span 227-miles of the Colorado River and are pre-arranged and heavily regulated by the federal government. They can't just delay and reschedule a few days later, Thevenin said.

Negotiators capped days of frantic closed-door talks and public recriminations by agreeing on a framework for a package of $38.5 billion in spending cuts covering the rest of the fiscal year, which expires September 30.

Operations from national parks to the White House visitor center would have closed without an agreement. Even some government websites would blink out, replaced by virtual closed signs.

A shutdown -- the first since 1996 -- probably would have cost the government millions of dollars to wind up work, secure work sites and pay possible overtime to recover from the work that would pile up during a shutdown.

In the long term, a shutdown would, Obama warned, plunge the country's fragile economy back into recession.

Austin Flor, 25, of Augusta, Georgia, earlier this week recorded a video entitled "my letter to Congress." He said members should consider cutting their own salaries before making significant budget cuts. "Now is not the time to play political games," Flor said.

Reached by CNN late Friday, Flor said, "I'm happy they reached a deal. Hopefully this will lead to a long-term deal."

The budget debate presaged likely battles over raising the limit on how much money the federal government can borrow and the 2012 budget, said Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

A majority of Americans -- 58% -- wanted congressional lawmakers to seek compromise to avoid a government shutdown, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.

So how did it come to this?

When voters gave control of the House to Republicans -- including many backed by the fiscally conservative Tea Party -- in November, the GOP vowed that pushing spending cuts would be a major part of its agenda. With Democrats in charge of the Senate and the White House, the threat of a shutdown has loomed ever since.

Unable to reach a long-term agreement, Congress has since funded the government with a series of temporary spending measures called continuing resolutions. Congress approved the last one March 17.

That measure that expired at midnight.

Scott Maxwell was chaperoning an eighth-grade class from Mission Viejo Christian School in California on a Friday visit to Statue of Liberty in New York.

Had the government shut down, his would have been one of the last groups to visit the American icon for who knows how long.

"I'm glad we're here today," he said.

CNN's Chris Lawrence, Charley Keyes, Jennifer Liberto and Phil Gast contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Interactive: What will close, stay open?
What offices and agencies would be affected if the government shuts down? Search through our interactive list.
Small business will take $60,000 hit
Fred Thevenin's rafting business in the Grand Canyon stands to lose $60,000 on Saturday if lawmakers don't work out a deal to avert a federal shutdown.
How shutdown would hurt Americans
Cami Stewart's dream of becoming the "Taco Queen" of Justin, Texas, could crumble if the federal government shuts down.
Flashback to the last shutdown
In 1995, House Speaker Newt Gingrich sparred with then-President Clinton over the budget until it forced a shutdown.
Analysis: It just gets dumber
Let's hope children aren't watching C-SPAN these days. Lawmakers are behaving in ways that would earn them a time-out if they were in kindergarten.
Gergen: It's all about politics
CNN analyst David Gergen blames the budget standoff on "an abject failure of leadership in the White House and in Congress."
Bachmann: An admission of failure
If Michele Bachmann were president, she would gather the party leadership in her office and "stay together until we actually cut a deal."
Food or rent is military wife's choice
Military mom Emily O'Donnell has a solution for the government to avoid a shutdown: "Go to your room and do not come out until your job is done."
 
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