Budget deal aims to avert another shutdown
WASHINGTON (CNN) — Congressional negotiators reached a bipartisan budget compromise on Tuesday that would prevent another government shutdown, if approved by the House and Senate.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan said Tuesday the deal with his Senate counterpart, Patty Murray, would set spending levels, reduce the deficit, and relieve some of the arbitrary, forced spending cuts — known as sequestration.
The pair found common ground just days before a Friday deadline to settle the matter.
“We have broken through the partisanship and the gridlock,” Murray said.
Ryan said the deal was “a clear improvement” over the status quo.
“This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government shutdown scenario in January. It makes sure we don’t have another government shutdown scenario in October. It makes sure that we don’t lurch from crisis to crisis,” the Wisconsin Republican said.
President Barack Obama called the development a good first step.
“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. 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,” Obama said in a statement.
Will Congress approve it?
Both the House and Senate must still weigh in, but opponents in both parties immediately raised concerns about the agreement, which, if passed by Congress, would mark a significant departure from repeated budget showdowns in recent years.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said the proposal “continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions” by spending too much.
“In the short run, this budget also cancels earlier spending reductions, instead of making some tough decisions about how to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges caused by runaway Washington spending,” Rubio said in a statement.
Ryan and Murray have spent the past two months working on an agreement that would set government spending levels and replace the next round of deep automatic cuts — known as sequester.
Negotiators were tasked with reaching a deal following October’s budget drama in Washington, when inaction by Congress on spending for the current fiscal year led to a 16-day federal shutdown.
The temporary federal spending agreement that ended the shutdown this fall expires in mid January.
With the Republican-led House leaving town on Friday for the holidays, negotiators worked for a deal this week to give both houses of Congress their best shot at quickly weighing the new proposal.
Ryan said they would like to get it before the House leaves town at the end of the work week, and Murray indicated the Senate wanted to consider it before it, too, recessed for the holidays next week.
“I think conservatives should vote for it,” Ryan said of Republicans, especially tea party members in the House, who have focused most aggressively on spending cuts and who have tangled most fiercely with Obama and Democrats.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she looks forward to discussing the deal with the Democratic caucus.
“Any budget agreement must ensure that we create jobs, grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, and reduce the deficit in a balanced and responsible way,” she said in a statement.
Details of agreement
“This deal doesn’t solve all of our problems,” Murray said, noting the compromise both sides made with government spending authority expiring in mid-January.
The agreement saves $85 billion while eliminating $63 billion in forced spending cuts to the military and other programs through sequestration to achieve total deficit reduction of $23 billion, budget leaders said.
Specifically, it rolls back sequestration cuts to education, medical research, infrastructure investments, and defense jobs for the next two years, Murray said.
She wanted the negotiations to close corporate tax loopholes and Republicans had hoped for a chance to make changes to entitlements.
Negotiators also did not include a proposal to extend unemployment benefits, which Democrats were pushing for this week.
By Lisa Desjardins and Deirdre Walsh
Tom Cohen, Brianna Keilar, Dana Bash and John King contributed to this report.