With Budget Deal, Lawmakers Hope to Dodge Shutdown 2.0

Budget
Chief budget negotiators Patty Murray and Paul Ryan put the final touches on a deal just days before the deadline. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

It’s a bipartisan Christmas miracle!

After six weeks of budget negotiations following the government shutdown in October, negotiators announced an agreement Tuesday evening on Capitol Hill.

Chief budget negotiators Senator Patty Murray, D-Washington, and Representative Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, put the final touches on a deal just days before the House of Representatives is scheduled to go home for the holidays.

The deal must now be approved in both houses of Congress. It has always been assumed that it would be tougher sell to the Republican-controlled House and the conservative Republican caucus. Ryan made the conservative case for the compromise, saying it lowers the deficit more than under the status quo, and predicting strong Republican support in the House.

“It reduces the deficit without raising taxes,” Ryan said at a press conference with Murray. “And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

The deal sets the spending level for the rest of the current fiscal year, FY 2014, at $1.012 trillion – about the halfway point between the Senate topline number of $1.058 trillion and the House number of $967 billion. The deal offsets $63 billion in across-the-board sequester cuts over the next two years. The sequester offsets, which are split evenly between defense and non-defense spending, come from cuts elsewhere in the budget, and will actually reduce the deficit by $20 billion more than under the current budget framework

“For far too long, compromise has been considered a dirty word,” Murray said. He argued that returning to a stable budget process will help shore up the feeble economic recovery.

"Because of this deal, the budget process can stop lurching from crisis to crisis," Murray said.

It was never clear that the budget talks would come together, and negotiators kept the discussion close to the vest over the past few weeks as Murray and Ryan hashed out the final details of an agreement. Following years of budget fights and various fiscal cliffs scenarios, this is the closest Republicans and Democrats have come to passing a bipartisan budget.

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