This week, the Senate is expected to approve a bicameral deal to raise discretionary spending by $63 billion over the next two years. The measure, which already passed the House of Representatives, provides less funding than pre-sequester levels, but would increase federal spending from $967 billion to $1.012 trillion this year. The increase would be equally split between defense and non-defense programs. Unlike the across-the-board spending cuts imposed by sequestration, the new agreement would allow congressional appropriators to choose specific programs to trim.
The budget agreement was negotiated by Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI). In addition to increasing funding for programs that have been squeezed by budget sequestration, the deal saves $28 billion over ten years by requiring the President to sequester the same percentage of mandatory funding in the years 2022 and 2023 as will be sequestered in 2021 under current law. Federal employees hired after 31 December 2013 would also have to contribute 1.3 percent more to their retirement programs than current employees.
“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,” said President Obama. “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.”
Despite objections from conservative interest groups, the House passed the budget deal last week in a bipartisan vote of 332 to 94. The measure had the support of three-quarters of Republican Representatives and more than 80 percent of Democrats.
The Senate is expected to consider and pass the bill this week before adjourning for the holidays.