White House, Congress Strike Two-Year Budget Deal
The White House and congressional leaders have reached a deal to raise the nation’s debt limit, reform some entitlement programs, and provide sequester relief for defense and domestic agencies for two years.
Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who was forced to resign his position and congressional seat in part to mollify anger of conservative members over previous bipartisan deals struck with the White House, had pledged to “clean the barn” before stepping down from his position at the end of this week.
Boehner’s successor as speaker, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) quickly blasted the process behind the deal, saying “this is not the way to do the people’s business,” but ultimately voted yes on the deal on the merits of its substance.
On Wednesday, the House voted 266-167 to pass the bill, with the Senate expected to take it up and pass it shortly.
The budget deal accomplished Boehner’s goal of clearing the decks of Congress of contentious budget issues that have plagued the chamber since 2010 by providing funding for the government through September 30, 2017 and raising the debt limit until March 2017.
The text of the legislation, largely negotiated by Boehner, along with his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and the White House would boost defense and domestic spending by $80 billion over two years, while also boosting wartime funding accounts for the Pentagon and State Department.
Specifically, the bill would allow defense and domestic spending to rise $50 billion above sequester levels in the first year, and $30 billion above sequester levels in the second year.
To offset the costs, the bill includes cuts in Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, and savings and revenue provisions from other program areas.
The deal also addresses a potential spike in costs for Medicare Part B beneficiaries, including CSRS retirees, who may still see premiums increase, but by much less than if the issue had not been addressed.
The budget deal did not tap federal workforce pay and benefits to help offset the higher spending levels, as previous budget deals have done.
While the tentative deal significantly decreases the prospects of a government shutdown when the current continuing resolution expires on December 11, Congressional appropriators still must craft legislation to provide agencies funding consistent with the budget deal.
A section-by-section summary of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 can be accessed here.
Posted in General News