WASHINGTON - Budget negotiators announced Tuesday a bipartisan budget
deal to set spending levels for the federal government for two years
and partially replace unpopular spending cuts with other savings.
Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty
Murray, D-Wash., led the negotiations that had intensified in recent
days as a Dec. 13 deadline approaches.
In a joint appearance
Tuesday evening in the U.S. Capitol, Ryan and Murray said the agreement
would stop the government "lurching from crisis to crisis" and eliminate
the threat of another government shutdown. A stopgap funding funding is
scheduled to run out again Jan. 15.
If approved, the agreement
would put the congressional budget process back on track, allowing for
passage of the 12 annual spending bills that cover federal spending
other than mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare. Ryan
noted that it is the first bipartisan budget agreement to come out of a
divided Congress since 1986. "This isn't easy," he said.
budget framework sets top-line spending figures for the next two fiscal
years and partially replaces for two years the sequester - the
across-the-board spending cuts triggered earlier this year following
prior failures to reach a budget agreement -- with other cuts and
For fiscal year 2014, the top-line spending will
be $1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion for fiscal year 2015. The
agreement replaces $63 billion in sequester cuts with a combination of
other savings, and includes an additional $22.5 billion in deficit
However, there is growing opposition from influential
outside conservative groups and it is unclear how many Republicans would
vote for it despite Ryan's endorsement. "As a conservative, I think
this is a step in the right direction," Ryan said, "I think
conservatives should vote for it." Ryan will brief rank-and-file
Republicans Wednesday morning.
Fiscal conservatives have voiced
reservations about a spending level higher than $967 billion, which is
the level set by the sequester cuts.
"It's disingenuous for
Republicans to surrender the only real spending reforms accomplished
under the Obama Administration, and call that a deal," said Matt Kibbe,
president of FreedomWorks. The group opposes the deal and is urging
lawmakers to vote against it.
Senior GOP lawmakers including
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Orrin Hatch,
R-Utah, also expressed reservations Tuesday to any deal that increases
spending levels. "My initial reaction is 'no,'" said Hatch.
Democrats unsuccessfully sought to use the negotiations as a vehicle to
secure an extension of unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of
the month. Benefits affecting 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers
are set to expire if Congress doesn't act, and the budget deal could be
the only vehicle headed to President Obama's desk before the U.S. House
adjourns until the new year on Friday. The Senate is scheduled to be in
session next week.
Ryan and Murray said unemployment benefits were not part of their deal, and would need to be settled separately.
agreement comes at the end of what has been the most unproductive
legislative year in Congress on record, and at a time when congressional
approval ratings continue to hover at historic lows. The agreement is a
signal that Congress is still functional, negotiators said.
bill doesn't solve all of our problems, but I think it's an important
step in helping to heal some of the wounds here in Congress, to rebuild
some trust, and show that we can do something without a crisis right
around the corner and demonstrate the value in making the government
work for the people we represent," Murray said.
The White House released this statement by President Obama after the news of the deal: "Earlier
this year, I called on Congress to work together on a balanced approach to a
budget that grows our economy faster and creates more jobs - not through aimless,
reckless spending cuts that harm our economy now, but by making sure we can
afford to invest in the things that have always grown our economy and
strengthened our middle class. Today's bipartisan budget agreement is a
good first step.
This agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known
as "the sequester" that have harmed students, seniors, and middle-class
families and served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year.
It clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific
research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries.
It's balanced, and includes targeted fee increases and spending cuts
designed in a way that doesn't hurt our economy or break the ironclad promises
we've made to our seniors. It does all this while slightly reducing our
deficits over time - coming on top of four years of the fastest deficit
reduction since the end of World War II. And because it's the first
budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American
people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for
the next two years.
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. That's the way the American people expect Washington to work. I want to
thank Senator Murray, Congressman Ryan and all the other leaders who helped
forge this bipartisan agreement. And I want to call on Members of Congress from
both parties to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this
agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and
creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.
But, as I said last week, the defining challenge of our time is not whether
Congress can pass a budget - it's whether we can make sure our economy works
for every working American. And while today's agreement is a good first step,
Congress has a lot more to do on that front. In the immediate term, Congress
should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking
for work don't lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas, and our
economy doesn't take a hit. And beyond that, they should do more to expand
broad-based growth and opportunity - by creating more jobs that pay better
wages, by growing our economy, and by offering a path into the middle class for
every American willing to work for it."