By DAVID ESPO
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Perilously close to a government shutdown, congressional leaders reached agreement with the White House late Friday night on a deal to cut tens of billions of dollars in federal spending and avert the closure.
House Speaker John Boehner informed the GOP rank and file of the accord, reached in grueling negotiations over several weeks, an official said.
"We have an agreement," concurred a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Jon Summers.
Because drafting and then passing the broader legislation could take days, congressional leaders raced to approve a stopgap measure to prevent the onset of the first shutdown in 15 years, due to begin at midnight. Officials said it would keep the government in funds through the middle of next week.
Boehner told reporters just before 11 p.m. EDT that the House would continue working.
Republicans said the deal called for $39 billion in spending cuts, a measure that one official said Boehner told his rank and file marked the "largest real-dollar spending cut in American history."
Over a decade, the agreement would cut more than $500 billion from the federal budget, Boehner added, according to a participant in the meeting.
The agreement marked an extraordinary reach across party lines and the first test of a new era of divided government that includes Obama in the White House, control of the Senate by fellow Democrats and a tea party-flavored Republican majority in the House.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.