Senate leaders reach 2-year budget deal following months of talks

Posted February 08, 2018

The 245-182 vote continues a pattern of using stopgap spending to fund the government since the fiscal year began October 1, with lawmakers unable to agree to a full-year budget.

In a rare moment of bipartisanship, Senate leaders from both parties have put together a two-year budget deal that would lift arbitrary spending caps on military and domestic spending put in place in 2011 and 2013 that neither party likes.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of NY, his Democratic counterpart, would raise strict caps on military and domestic spending that were imposed in 2011 as part of a deal with President Barack Obama that was once seen as a key triumph for Republicans in Congress. "No one would suggest its ideal, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people". With Republicans in control of both chambers of Congress as well as the White House, Democrats have been sidelined on everything from a sweeping tax bill passed in December to long-stalled efforts to address the status of undocumented immigrants brought to the children. Lawmakers need to work out a spending measure before Thursday to avoid a government shutdown.

As of now, House Republicans are likely to pass a stop-gap bill Tuesday night that would boost funding for the military through September but keep the rest of the government funded at current levels, and only through March 23.

Under Washington's arcane ways, a broad-brush agreement to increase legally binding spending "caps" - which would otherwise keep the budgets for Pentagon and domestic agencies both essentially frozen - would be approved, then followed by a far more detailed catchall spending bill that would takes weeks to negotiate.

The White House is praising a Senate budget agreement, saying it meets the administration's priorities on defense spending and providing a two-year budget plan.

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"This is a moral issue for many of us", Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-New York, said.

A long-term spending agreement had always been sought by military leaders, who said a series of short-term funding bills had harmed military readiness.

The broader budget picture is one in which GOP defense hawks are prevailing over the party's depleted ranks of deficit hawks while Democrats leverage their influence to increase spending for domestic priorities such as combating opioid misuse. It would contain nearly $300 billion over current limits on defense and domestic accounts.

The spending bill would allocate about $160 billion to go to the Pentagon and about $128 billion for non-defense programs.

He said the budget deal was a "genuine breakthrough" after months of legislative logjams. The proposal also includes another $160 billion in "emergency" funds, which don't count against the spending caps, for additional military and domestic needs. Chuck Schumer lost nine seats in the Senate after he spent 2013 trying to pass the huge "Gang of Eight" amnesty through the Senate and the House.

But Pelosi said on the House floor that because House Speaker Paul Ryan has yet to promise an immigration vote, the emerging budget pact "does not have my support, nor does it have the support of a large number of members of our caucus". But it's not clear how much bipartisan support that bipartisan bill will actually draw, as House Democratic leaders were holding out Wednesday for assurances on an immigration bill.

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Conservatives in the House are expected to balk at a deal that raises spending by $300 billion over the next two years, meaning Democrats are expected to be needed to pass this plan.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday afternoon that Trump was not pushing for the inclusion of immigration policies in the budget accord, something that would upend the sensitive talks.

In fiscal terms, this a pretty good deal for Democrats.

But there's a reason we got here.

But after last month's three-day government shutdown, Senate Democrats were willing to finalize a budget deal separately from the debate over immigration.

Non-defense spending would rise by US$63 billion this year and US$68 billion next year.

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The bill will also include at least $80 billion in disaster relief spending for victims of hurricanes and wildfires in Texas, California, Florida and Puerto Rico.