Budget Agreement Reached: Government Shutdown Averted, Sequester Cuts Offset

rrrrAfter weeks of negotiation, a modest budget agreement emerged from Congress on Tuesday that reduces the next round of looming sequester cuts and averts a government shutdown.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) ironed out the details of the new agreement and represented competing interests within the bipartisan group which was formed after the last budget showdown in October.

The budget agreement provides relief from $63 billion in sequester cuts over 2 years that would have reduced spending in defense and non-defense government programs.

The agreement also lowers the deficit between $ 20 and $23 billion.

Senator Patty Murray (D-Washington) spoke favorably about the agreement during Tuesday’s joint press conference.

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way” Murray said.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) put his seal of approval on the deal and urged his colleagues in the House to approve it.

“I am proud of this agreement”  Rep. Paul Ryan admitted during the joint press conference.

“It reduces taxes without raising taxes and it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all of my colleagues in the House to support it” Ryan added.

House Speaker John Boehner  (R-Ohio) expressed some optimism about the new agreement in a statement released on his website.

“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.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 locks in the overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $ 1.012 trillion, the middle point between the Senate proposal of $ 1.058 trillion and the House proposal of $ 967 billion.

In the 2014 fiscal year, non-defense discretionary spending is set at $491.8 billion and defense discretionary spending is set at $520.5 billion.

Under the new budget framework, federal employees will be faced with $6 billion in cuts to their retirement benefits while $6 billion will be cut from military pensions.

Republican leaders are pleased that the new agreement includes no new tax revenues and instead relies on increased airline security fees that are issued on flights.

However, some conservative Republicans such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) expressed his disapproval for the new agreement.

“We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American Dream. Instead, 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” Senator Rubio wrote on his website.

Republicans didn’t receive any major changes to Medicare and Social Security, although medicare providers doctors will see a 2 percent cut.

On the other spectrum, some Democrats were unhappy with the new agreement because an expiration of unemployment benefits isn’t part of the new agreement and neither is a plan to end corporate loopholes.

The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the new agreement by Friday and a Senate vote may come as early as next week.

The agreement does not address the issue of raising the U.S. debt ceiling which still needs to be resolved before the next deadline on February 7th.

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-Johnathan Schweitzer

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