It may not be readily obvious from the blizzard of news out there today on the "sequester," but a government shutdown became significantly less likely today, even as the automatic budget cuts barreled ahead toward reality.
What happened? Both sides - Republicans and Democrats - basically seem to have agreed that as they will continue to fight out the $85 billion in automatic budget cuts starting to take effect today, they will not allow that disagreement to jeopardize full funding for the federal government. That funding is now scheduled to expire March 27.
After the White House meeting this morning, House Speaker John Boehner said he would have the House vote next week to fund the full government - what's known as a "continuing resolution."
Boehner: "I did lay out that the House is going to move a continuing resolution next week to fund the government past March 27th, and I'm hopeful that we won't have to deal with the threat of a government shutdown while we're dealing with the sequester at the same time. The House will act next week, and I hope the Senate will follow suit."
Boehner's office provided this read-out of the meeting: "The president and leaders agreed legislation should be enacted this month to prevent a government shutdown while we continue to work on a solution to replace the president's sequester."
The president was asked at his mini-news conference whether he would definitely sign such a bill, even if it keeps government going at the new, lower spending levels as this fight is resolved (or not).
Obama's response: "With respect to the budget and keeping the government open - I'll try for our viewing audience to make sure that we're not talking in Washington gobbledygook. What's called the continuing resolution, which is essentially just an extension of last year's budget into this year's budget to make sure that basic government functions continue, I think it's the right thing to do to make sure that we don't have a government shutdown. And that's preventable."
So even as we moved toward the brink of sequester, the nation's leaders took a step back from another, much larger cliff.