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Parks open, services continue, but more wrangling ahead this year

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Military wife reacts to budget deal
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Obama pays visit to Lincoln Memorial
  • Democrats and Republicans in Washington reach a deal to avert a shutdown
  • The short-term deal will fund government through April 15
  • Had a shutdown occurred, 800,000 government workers would have been furloughed

Washington (CNN) -- Never mind that the skies were overcast and dropped a little rain in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

The bands marched on, mascots waved to youngsters and other performers delighted the crowd at the National Cherry Blossom Festival parade.

A congressional agreement reached late Friday on a short-term funding extension kept National Park Service staff on the job Saturday and allowed the parade to go on its planned route.

Across the country, there was a sigh of relief among federal employees, military families and ordinary Americans who saw no cutoff in federal services.

President Barack Obama, who signed the extension, made a quick visit to the Lincoln Memorial, where he made clear the nation's parks and monuments are open for business.

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"I just want to say real quick that because Congress was able to settle its differences -- that's why this place is open today and everybody's able to enjoy their visit," Obama said. "That's the kind of future cooperation I hope we have going forward."

"Enjoy Washington," Obama called out to the crowds after shaking hands and running down the memorial's steps.

Kasey Long of Jacksonville, North Carolina, had worried about how her family would manage if politicians were unable to avert a shutdown.

"I'm just really elated," she said after hearing news of the agreement.

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.

"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."

Not everyone was thrilled with the compromise.

The Tea Party Express was "not very impressed," said spokesman Levi Russell, who claimed the group needed to work harder for deeper cuts in the future.

If negotiations between Democrats and Republicans had failed, about 800,000 government workers would have been furloughed.

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, which cuts spending by $2 billion, will fund the government through April 15.

"The government will be open for business," said Obama, who signed the measure Saturday. He called the cuts "painful" but necessary.

"Both parties reached an agreement that will allow our small businesses to get the loans they need, our families to get the mortgages they applied for, and hundreds of thousands of Americans to show up at work and take home their paychecks on time," the president 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.

The budget deal still needs to pass in both houses, with the expectation that lawmakers will approve it and the president will sign it before the short-term funding measure expires.

The House is scheduled to begin considering Monday the budget deal covering the remainder of this fiscal year, with a vote on Wednesday. The Senate would take up the bill at some point after that, said spokesman Jon Summers of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office.

It wasn't just military families who were relieved. 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.

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The National Park Service was prepared to furlough 17,000 employees Saturday morning, said spokesman David Barna.

People enjoying the national parks Saturday were relieved they didn't have to leave campgrounds or be prevented from entering.

"It worked out well," Barna told CNN. "Everybody is delighted."

Before the agreement, 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 prearranged and heavily regulated by the federal government. They can't just delay and reschedule a few days later, Thevenin said.

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.

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

When voters gave control of the House of Representatives 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 expired at midnight Friday.

This week's talks portend even tougher rounds of negotiations when Congress takes up an increase in the nation's debt ceiling and the fiscal year 2012 budget in the months ahead.

FreedomWorks, a nonprofit conservative organization that supports the Tea Party movement, said people should expect future budget battles.

"The battle lines are clearly being drawn, and it's up to the Republicans to make the tough spending cuts," said spokesman Adam Brandon.

Reid called the deal "difficult but important for the country."

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

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