The historic $38 billion in budget cuts resulting from at-times hostile bargaining between Congress and the Obama White House were accomplished in large part by pruning money left over from previous years, using accounting sleight of hand and going after programs President Barack Obama had targeted anyway.

Such moves permitted Obama to save favorite programs – Pell grants for poor college students, health research and “Race to the Top” aid for public schools, among others – from Republican knives, according to new details of the legislation released Tuesday morning.

And big holes in foreign aid and Environmental Protection Agency accounts were patched in large part. Republicans also gave up politically treacherous cuts to the Agriculture Department’s food inspection program.

The details of the agreement reached late Friday night just ahead of a deadline for a partial government shutdown reveal a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially “score” as cuts to pay for spending elsewhere, but often have little to no actual impact on the deficit.

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