House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., negotiated a two-year budget deal.(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, AP)
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate approved, 64-36, Wednesday a limited,
two-year budget framework to diffuse the threat of another government
shutdown and alleviate harsh budget cuts.
Nine Republicans sided with all 55 members of the Democratic Conference, which includes two independent senators.
The agreement was overwhelmingly approved by the U.S. House last week, and it now heads to President Obama for his signature.
framework sets top-line spending levels for the next two fiscal years
at $1.012 trillion and $1.014 trillion, respectively. The GOP-led House
and Democratic-led Senate had been unable to agree on spending levels,
which helped provoke the 16-day government shutdown in October.
off the same budget levels will allow the House and Senate
Appropriations committees to move forward on the annual 12 spending
bills that fund the government's discretionary spending, which does not
include spending on mandatory programs like Social Security and
"We have a heavy lift ahead of us - drafting,
negotiating, and passing these bills in just over one month - but I am
certain my colleagues on both the Senate and House Appropriations
Committees are up to the task," House Appropriations Chairman Hal
Rogers, R-Ky., said last week. The current stopgap funding bill runs out
on Jan. 15.
The budget deal also alleviates $63 billion in
across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester by replacing them
with other cuts and new government fees on airlines, new pension
requirements for future federal employees, and a 1% reduction in cost of
living adjustments to working-age military retirees. It also includes
an additional $23 billion in modest deficit reduction over the next
decade achieved by extending certain health care cuts through 2023.
budget deal is one of the final legislative acts in what has otherwise
been the most unproductive year on record for Congress.
GOP-led House has already adjourned for the year, while the
Democratic-led Senate is also working to wrap up a defense bill and a
number of executive branch nominations before they adjourn for the
The deal's negotiators, House Budget Chairman Paul
Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said
they are hopeful this final act of bipartisanship will usher in a new
era of cooperation in a divided Washington.
Murray said the deal
could help "heal the wounds" of what has been a divisive and partisan
year that led to the first government shutdown in nearly two decades and
included a bitter and ongoing battle over the implementation of the
president's health care law.
Congress will reconvene on Jan. 6 for
the second session of the 113th Congress. An overhaul of the nation's
immigration laws is the dominant piece of domestic legislation facing
this Congress, while congressional Republicans are also angling for
additional fiscal restraints in exchange for their support to increase
the nation's debt limit. A vote is expected in the spring.