Written byScott Maucione
The Senate passed the bipartisan budget deal 64 to 36, averting another government shutdown for the next two years and preventing further sequestration budget cuts, around 5 p.m. Dec. 18.
“This bill is not exactly what I would have written on my own, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chairman [Paul] Ryan [R-Wis.] would have written on his own, but it’s what the American people want, a compromise,” said co-sponsor of the bill Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
A total of 14 Republicans reached across the aisle and voted for the bill; no Democrats voted against it. President Barack Obama will only have to sign the bill into law for it to come into effect.
The Senate invoked cloture on the bill Dec. 16 by a vote of 67 to 33, garnering the needed 60 votes to to cut off debate and all but ensuring the bill’s passage.
Directly after the cloture vote, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., spoke in favor of the bill.
“It [is] a real compromise, something we haven’t seen enough of,” he said. Cardin has a high interest in passing the bill, as it would keep the government open for the next two years. A large number of his constituents are government employees.
The House passed the bill 332 to 94 late Dec. 12.
The budget deal is an agreement between Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. It was reached Dec. 10.
The bill will raise the spending cap from the sequester-imposed $967 billion planned for 2014, without the deal, to $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015.
The bill will also avoid a government shutdown until the end of 2015. The 16-day shutdown that incapacitated Washington in October resulted in a loss of $4.5 billion in lost productivity and worker benefit compensation.
The future cap increases will keep the government from constantly having to reach short-term agreements to keep the government functioning, something Murray called “lurching from crisis to crisis.”
The Bipartisan Budget Act will replace $63 billion in budget cuts to a variety of programs, $20 billion of which would have been taken from the defense budget.
If Congress did not pass the bill, defense spending would have fallen 17 percent below its 2010 mark and non-defense spending will fall 17.8 percent, as a result of the sequester.
The bill reduces government spending, however, through fee increases and reduced spending in other areas. The total savings will equal about $85 billion in the next 10 years without raising taxes. A paltry amount compared to the average $1 trillion deficits of the past few years.
“I’m proud of this agreement,” Ryan said upon reaching the agreement. “It reduces the deficit without raising taxes and it cuts spending in a smarter way.”
The bill adds saliency to Ryan, who could be eying a presidential run in 2016. He soared to national attention when Mitt Romney tapped him as his presidential running mate in 2012.
Despite the rare act of bipartisanship, something that has been scarce in 2013, both sides still have qualms with the deal.
Fiscal conservatives are upset about the increases in the spending caps.
“The budget deal reflects just that, a deal,” Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said Dec. 16. “It raises spending above the caps. We will spend more now, we will grow the budget more now and the cuts never materialize.”
Conservative interest groups also expressed their discontent.
“[The bill] allows the government to spend well beyond its means and increases our borrowing limit without scrutinizing the wasteful spending that is putting us further into debt,” said Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity.
Liberals mourn the lack of a provision to extend benefits to workers who have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks. The benefits are scheduled to end Dec. 28. More than a million people would be affected by the lack in benefits.