Policy: Budgets & Deficits

Two-year budget deal reached, faces House vote this week

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Paul Ryan,David M. Drucker,PennAve,Budgets and Deficits,Government Shutdown

Top congressional negotiators on Tuesday announced a two-year, $2 trillion budget deal that would avert a government shutdown through October 2015, restore $63 billion in scheduled cuts and trim the budget deficit by $22.5 billion.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said neither side won everything it wanted but that the deal also didn't violate either party's core principles. Their plan, which will be vetted by the House and Senate, would spend $1.012 trillion in fiscal 2014, including $520.5 billion at the Pentagon.

The deal raises $85 billion over two years in budget savings measures and increases in government user fees, though it includes no general tax increases.

The House is expected to vote as early as Thursday and the Senate next week. But Murray and Ryan said they expect to secure the votes necessary to send the compromise to President Obama’s desk.

“I think conservatives should vote for it. I expect we’re going to have a healthy vote in the House Republican caucus. I think we will pass this through the House,” Ryan, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, said. “As a conservative I think this is a step in the right direction.”

“I’m hopeful now that we can get this bipartisan deal through the House and then through the Senate and get home in time for the holidays,” Murray added. “This is a bipartisan deal; we have both had to move to where we are today.”

Murray and Ryan acknowledged deep disagreements over how to resolve the nation's economic challenges and agreed that the budget proposal would look very different if either had written it on their own. Their one point of agreement, though, was that the compromise was better than another government shutdown.

Obama hailed the deal as a sign of rare bipartisan cooperation on Capitol Hill.

“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like – and I know many Republicans feel the same way," Obama said in a statement. "That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done.”

The stopgap funding bill enacted in October to end a 16-day government shutdown expires Jan. 15 and lawmakers must have the new budget in place by then to prevent a second shutdown. The House intends to vote on the measure before leaving town Friday for the holiday recess. The Senate will be in session next week and may not take up the budget bill until then.

Senators on both sides of the aisle are expected to grumble. Democrats had hoped the deal would include an extension of unemployment benefits now set to expire Dec. 31. Republicans wanted to spend less by keeping in place many of the sequester-driven budget cuts to non-defense programs. Still, the compromise is expected to pass the Democratic chamber.

The House faces a much tougher challenge. Republicans who control the chamber are under pressure from outside interest groups to oppose the compromise that spends more than they want and does nothing about reforms to entitlement programs like Medicare. That's likely to mean that a sizable bloc of the Republican majority will vote against the bill and that as many as 100 Democratic votes will be needed to push it through the House.

Ryan, who consulted with Republican leaders and committee chairmen throughout the bargaining process, was confident he'd have the votes needed to pass the House.

“While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., another potential 2016 presidential candidate, countered that the compromise is yet another example of Washington’s profligate ways.

“This budget continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans,” Rubio said.

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