Senate Passes Budget Bill and Sends It to Obama

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Congress Sends Budget and Debt Deal to Obama.

WASHINGTON — Legislation sparing the country the specter of a catastrophic national default or partial government shutdown is ready for President Barack Obama’s signature after the Senate approved the measure by a comfortable margin. The US Senate passed a bipartisan, two-year budget deal early Friday that boosts federal spending by $80 billion, reduces a government shutdown threat and raises the debt ceiling through the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. The deal struck between Republican congressional leaders and Democrats, and passed earlier this week by the House, also sets the budget for the federal government for the next two years. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday and now goes to Obama for the formalities of his signature, although the political fallout looks set to linger on. The Senate voted 64-35 for the measure in the early morning hours Friday, with Democrats and Republican defense hawks uniting to overcome opposition from GOP presidential candidates Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas.

The measure, which passed 64 votes to 35 late into the night, provides lawmakers with some fiscal breathing room through the 2016 presidential election after years of bruising spending fights. Obama had negotiated the accord with congressional leaders who were intent on steering the institution away from the brinkmanship and shutdown threats that have haunted it for years. The deal is the result of weeks of secret negotiations between the White House and Republican then-speaker John Boehner, who sought to clear the decks of any fiscal crises before his successor took the gavel.

Boehner stepped down Thursday, when congressman Paul Ryan was elected as the new speaker of the House, and the bill marked Boehner’s final legislative achievement. The measure calls for corresponding budget cuts to avoid increasing the deficit, including reductions in Medicare payments to doctors and other health care providers. Despite flaws, McConnell said the bill “rejects tax hikes, secures long-term savings through entitlement reforms, and provides increased support for our military.” “But this budget agreement accomplishes two major priorities that Democrats have long supported,” Reid said. “Number one, it promotes economic growth by providing relief from sequestration’s damaging cuts for two years.

Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had vowed to filibuster the deal, but was unable to successfully stop it after the same 18 Republicans joined with the Democrats to invoke cloture. And it ensures we invest equally in the middle class and the Pentagon.” The bill cancels tens of billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, that were imposed on military and domestic programs in 2013. Congressional appropriators will need to decide how the funds will be divided among the vast slate of federal programs by December 11, when a stopgap spending measure expires. To pay for the spending boost, the bill seeks cost savings from programs that benefit America’s elderly and boosts revenue through a series of one-time measures, such as the sale of oil from the government’s emergency petroleum reserve. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) compared approving the budget compromise to giving Obama a “diamond encrusted glow in the dark AmEx card” that would be paid off by future generations.

But several conservatives, including a number of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination, have blasted the deal as fiscal recklessness. Ryan of Wisconsin, a clean start in which he can focus his attention on mending deep divisions among House Republicans. “This agreement isn’t perfect,” the majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said in a floor speech. “I share some concerns other colleagues have raised. Critics say it marks a sell-out to the Obama administration because it busts through congressionally mandated spending caps and extends borrowing authority, while doing little to pare down the nation’s $18 trillion deficit. “Republican majorities have just given President Obama a diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark AmEx card,” Senator Ted Cruz, who is running for president, fumed late Thursday.

The rare overnight votes, beginning with a 1 a.m. procedural measure and ending with final passage shortly after 3 a.m., was a consequence of the bitter disagreement among Republicans. That would allow the money to be captured within the 10-year window used for budget-scoring purposes. “Yes, it adds $2.3 billion into the 10-year window,” he said. “It’s actually zero savings.

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