Budget negotiators on Tuesday night announced they’ve reached a two-year deal that sets spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion and would provide $63 billion in sequester relief — all without new tax revenue.
“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, one of the two principal negotiators, in a statement shortly before an evening news conference. “It reduces the deficit — without raising taxes. 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.”
Sen. Patty Murray, who handled the negotiations for Democrats, said, “This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way.”
The deal, being dubbed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, will still have to get the go-ahead of rank-and-file lawmakers in both parties. The House is set to adjourn at the end of the week, and Republicans there are expected to meet behind closed doors Wednesday morning, as their leaders eye a floor vote by Friday.
The proposed package would set overall discretionary spending annualized for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion. That’s about midway between the level of $1.058 trillion proposed in the Senate’s budget, and the House-proposed budget level of $967 billion.
The deal would bring fiscal 2015 spending to about $1.014 trillion. The plan does not deal with the debt ceiling, which is anticipated to be reached sometime after Feb. 7.
The agreement also would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and nondefense programs. In fiscal 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and nondefense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.
In fiscal 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and nondefense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.
The sequester relief is described as being fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget.
The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling roughly $85 billion, although details of how these savings would be realized were not immediately released. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 billion and $23 billion.
Some conservatives have recently voiced opposition to swapping out sequester cuts for “user fees,” while liberals have criticized any deal that does not extend unemployment insurance.
A potential major sticking point for some lawmakers could be that one measure being used to help pay for added spending is increased premiums for pension plans backed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.
However, the package also does not include an extension of unemployment benefits, due to expire at the end of December — something Democrats have been championed.
Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Tuesday afternoon that he can’t say whether House Democrats will be on board.
“We’re still feeling our way through this,” he said. “Some of the components may be a hard sell for House Republicans. So, we need to find out where they are, and where we are.”
House Republicans have let it be known they have a contingency plan in place.
“Part of our conversation was on the short-term piece,” Rep. James Lankford, the Republican Policy chairman, said Tuesday afternoon. “If this [budget] deal doesn’t pass, we’ve got to have a short-term piece ready to get together and get out there.”
Correction: A previous version misstated the status of the pension provision.
What We're Following See More »
The Signal app is fast becoming the new favorite among those who are obsessed with the security and untraceabilty of their messaging. Just ask the Democratic National Committee. Or Edward Snowden. As Vanity Fair reports, before news ever broke that the DNC's servers had been hacked, word went out among the organization that the word "Trump" should never be used in their emails, lest it attract hackers' attention. Not long after, all Trump-related messages, especially disparaging ones, would need to be encrypted via the Snowden-approved Signal.
The Republican Study Committee may lose several members of the House Freedom Caucus next year, "potentially creating a split between two influential groups of House conservatives." The Freedom Caucus was founded at the inception of the current Congress by members who felt that the conservative RSC had gotten too cozy with leadership, "and its roughly 40 members have long clashed with the RSC over what tactics to use when pushing for conservative legislation." As many as 20 members may not join the RSC for the new Congress next year.
"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued emergency authorization for a Zika diagnostics test from Swiss drugmaker Roche, skirting normal approval channels as the regulator moves to fight the disease's spread." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that a new study in Nature identifies "about a dozen substances" that could "suppress the pathogen's replication." Some of them are already in clinical trials.
According to 37 newly released audits, "some private Medicare plans overcharged the government for the majority of elderly patients they treated." A number of Medicare Advantage plans overstated "the severity of medical conditions like diabetes and depression." The money has since been paid back, though some plans are appealing the federal audits.