On Thursday U.S. lawmakers in the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly in favor of a modest two year budget bill that prevents another government shutdown, caps federal spending, and softens the impact of the next round of government sequester cuts in 2014 that was expected to take a larger bite into federal spending and cause more fiscal drag on the U.S. economic recovery.
By a margin of 332-94 the bipartisan bill found wide support in the House of Representatives and will move to the Democrat majority Senate next week where it is expected to be approved.
The bill locks in spending for domestic and defense programs at $1.012 trillion during the current 2014 fiscal year, noticeably higher than the $967 billion level that sequestration cuts would have left Washington to spend without approval of the bill.
Many Republicans vowed early on to keep Washington on a lean diet of sequestration cuts and not move beyond the $967 billion level but a budget compromise was reached this week and $1.012 trillion remains lower than the $1.058 trillion level that many Democrats were targeting.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will get some credit for helping the bill to find support in the House despite efforts made by some Tea Party Republicans on Capitol Hill to fight against an increase in spending for the next two years with 2 year spending caps that will be higher than the $986 billion already spent for 2013 and does little to lower the $ 17 trillion dollar deficit except for securing $23 billion over 10 years towards lowering the federal deficit, a drop in the bucket.
To make up for the $63 billion increase in spending combined with the $23 billion deficit reduction plan, the 2 year bipartisan budget bill includes $85 billion in deficit-reduction measures such as lowering contributions to federal employees’ retirement plans and raising airline security fees.
But the budget bill also does little to reform and tighten fiscal spending with expensive social programs to the dismay of conservative Republicans.
For Democrats, the budget bill does nothing to end tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy.
“Is it perfect? Does it go far enough? No, not at all” Speaker Boehner said today on the House floor.
“I think it’s going to take a lot more work to get our arms around our debt and our deficits. But this budget is a positive step in that direction. It’s progress” Boehner added.
With federal spending levels capped for 2 years, the opportunities for more federal government infrastructure spending is decreasing in an economic environment of low interest rates that are expected to move higher in the coming years.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports the average age of a U.S. bridge is 43 years and nearing the end of its intended lifespan.
The FHWA reported that 200,000 of the nation’s 600,000 highway bridges are 50 years old or older and that number is expected to double by 2030.
In the past four years, the U.S. has repaired three times fewer bridges than were fixed between 1992 and 1996, according to Research from Transportation for America.