House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, speaks with Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash.
(Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP)
WASHINGTON - Budget negotiators announced Tuesday a bipartisan budget deal to set spending levels for the federal government for two years and replace unpopular spending cuts with other savings.
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., are spearheading negotiations that intensified in recent days as a Dec. 13 deadline approaches.
Both Ryan and Murray said the agreement would stop the government "lurching from crisis to crisis."
If successful, the deal would put the congressional budget process back on track, allowing for passage of the 12 annual spending bills that cover federal spending other than mandatory programs like Social Security and Medicare. It would also eliminate the threat of another government shutdown. Government funding is scheduled to run out again in January unless Congress passes a new spending measure.
The budget framework would set top-line spending figures for the next two fiscal years and replace for two years the sequester - the across-the-board spending cuts triggered earlier this year following prior failures to reach a budget agreement -- with other cuts and non-tax revenues.
However, there was growing opposition from influential outside conservative groups against any deal that would raise spending levels above the GOP House's $967 billion sequester level, even if it is offset with other savings. Budget talks have narrowed in on levels that would split the difference between the House spending level and the Democratic Senate's $1.058 billion spending level.
"It's disingenuous for Republicans to surrender the only real spending reforms accomplished under the Obama Administration, and call that a deal," said Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks. The group opposes any deal that increases spending levels, particularly because there appear to be no significant changes to entitlement programs like Medicare in the mix.
Senior GOP lawmakers including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, expressed reservations Tuesday to any deal that increases spending levels. "My initial reaction is 'no,'" said Hatch.
House Democrats were continuing their efforts to use the negotiations as a vehicle to secure an extension of unemployment benefits set to expire at the end of the month. Benefits affecting 1.3 million long-term unemployed workers are set to expire if Congress doesn't act, and the budget deal could be the only vehicle headed to President Obama's desk before the U.S. House adjourns until the new year on Friday
President Obama released the following statement on the budget deal:
Earlier this year, I called on Congress to work together on a balanced approach to a budget that grows our economy faster and creates more jobs - not through aimless, reckless spending cuts that harm our economy now, but by making sure we can afford to invest in the things that have always grown our economy and strengthened our middle class. Today's bipartisan budget agreement is a good first step.
This agreement replaces a portion of the across-the-board spending cuts known as "the sequester" that have harmed students, seniors, and middle-class families and served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year. It clears the path for critical investments in things like scientific research, which has the potential to unleash new innovation and new industries. It's balanced, and includes targeted fee increases and spending cuts designed in a way that doesn't hurt our economy or break the ironclad promises we've made to our seniors. It does all this while slightly reducing our deficits over time - coming on top of four years of the fastest deficit reduction since the end of World War II. And because it's the first budget that leaders of both parties have agreed to in a few years, the American people should not have to endure the pain of another government shutdown for the next two years.
This agreement doesn't include everything I'd like - and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That's the nature of compromise. But it's a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done. That's the way the American people expect Washington to work. I want to thank Senator Murray, Congressman Ryan and all the other leaders who helped forge this bipartisan agreement. And I want to call on Members of Congress from both parties to take the next step and actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds.
But, as I said last week, the defining challenge of our time is not whether Congress can pass a budget - it's whether we can make sure our economy works for every working American. And while today's agreement is a good first step, Congress has a lot more to do on that front. In the immediate term, Congress should extend unemployment insurance, so more than a million Americans looking for work don't lose a vital economic lifeline right after Christmas, and our economy doesn't take a hit. And beyond that, they should do more to expand broad-based growth and opportunity - by creating more jobs that pay better wages, by growing our economy, and by offering a path into the middle class for every American willing to work for it.