Lawmakers Reach Agreement on Budget, Breaking Gridlock

Modest deal would reverse some automatic spending cuts and could end cycle of brinkmanship

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Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call / Getty Images

Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray eye the ceremonial gavel before the start of the House-Senate conference committee on the congressional budget on Oct. 30, 2013.

Correction appended: Dec. 10, 2013, 11:40 p.m. E.T.

Congressional leaders struck a deal on Tuesday to undo billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts that have frustrated both parties, a modest agreement that nevertheless raised hopes of an end to the nonstop budget battles and brinkmanship that have consumed Washington in recent years.

The deal, which would set spending levels for the next two years and replace the automatic cuts mandated by “sequestration” with more targeted cuts and some revenue increases, is expected to go before the House later this week, and the Senate shortly after. It follows intense negotiations between Wisconsin Republican Representative Paul Ryan and Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray, the respective House and Senate Budget Committee chairs, who have been working to avert another government shutdown early next year. The deal does little to resolve the much larger partisan divides on government spending, but if enacted, it would still be the most significant budget agreement since Republicans seized control of the House in 2010.

“From the outset, we realized if we forced each other to compromise on a core principle, we would not get anywhere,” Ryan said during a joint news conference with Murray at the Capitol. “That’s why we decided to focus on where there is common ground.”

“In divided government, you don’t always get what you want,” added Ryan, who was the Republican Party’s 2012 vice-presidential nominee. “That said, we can still make progress toward our goals.

“The debt would go down more with this than if we did nothing,” Ryan said, taking pains to note that the revenues in the deal come from fees and other sources, not raising taxes. “I think conservatives should vote for this … I have every reason to express great support from our caucus.”

Murray hailed the agreement as one that would stop Congress from “lurching from crisis to crisis.”

This deal doesn’t solve all of our problems,” she said. “But I think it’s an important step to heal some of the wounds here in Congress, and show we can do something without a crisis right around the corner.”

House Speaker John Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor quickly voiced support for the deal. Republicans have been more eager to cut a deal since the government shutdown in October sent their poll numbers into a nosedive and distracted from the botched rollout of President Barack Obama’s health-care-reform law. Obama also embraced the deal.

“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way,” he said in a statement. “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 shortsighted, crisis-driven decisionmaking to get this done. That’s the way the American people expect Washington to work.”

The so-called sequestration cuts, which were enacted after Congress failed to reach a larger budget agreement in 2011 under the threat of across-the-board cuts, had frustrated lawmakers in both parties because of their indiscriminate nature. Ryan said the cuts in the new deal are “smart, targeted reforms.”

“This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government-shutdown scenario in January,” Ryan said. “This deal makes sure we don’t jump from crisis to crisis.”

But the deal is sure to face some resistance from conservative lawmakers and outside groups that want deeper spending cuts — the baseline spending levels allowed fall midway between what Republicans and Democrats had sought. But Ryan holds significant sway with conservatives, and he said the negotiations were done in close consultation with GOP leadership and with committee chairs who will have jurisdiction over the bill, officially called the Bipartisan Budget Act.

Some prominent players quickly voiced their opposition.

“We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good-paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American Dream,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, a possible 2016 presidential candidate, said in a statement. “Instead, this budget continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans.”

The conservative group Americans for Prosperity said the deal is “not just bad policy, it is bad politics.”

And Republican Senate minority whip John Cornyn, who just drew a primary challenger to his re-election hopes this week, reacted skeptically.

“The outlines of it are concerning,” he said. “It’s just more spending. I think it’s headed in the wrong direction.”

With reporting by Alex Rogers

An earlier version of this article misidentified Patty Murray’s congressional title. She is a Senator, not a Representative.

23 comments
yogi
yogi

1000 words photo caption time!

Ryan: Man I'm glad I do all that P90X, this thing is easy to lift.

AmericanForRealChange
AmericanForRealChange

Of course now after reading all the comments, it is clear that a majority of Americans simply waste time bashing Reps or Dems. I propose we spend more time concentrating on voicing our support to those leaders who embrace compromise and positive support for the needs of this country. I know this is just a forum and there were some positive remarks, I still see most of you pointing fingers. Who cares about the past presidents? They aren't in office now. We need people who will work together and solve the challenges, not whiners or bashers. Face it - we ALL contributed to this state of affairs so let's all get ourselves out of it.

AmericanForRealChange
AmericanForRealChange

I would like to know more about Marco Rubio. Less spending AND better jobs HERE in America IS a good goal that both sides could shoot for. It is a realistic compromise that I bet a  majority of Americans would embrace. Senator Rubio - I will watch you and pray you have good intentions. You may be our next choice.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

It's handy to note that you can easily compile a list of organizations that need to be ignored and ostracized by noting which ones are objecting to this development. Note to the World. These people are not Patriots. They simply hate America and all that she stands for.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

While I agree that this proposal (it has yet to be passed by the House and Senate) is a step in the right direction it really doesn't go very far to address the outsized spending and the growing national debt.  But, first things first, learn to work with each other and move forward positively.  Then work together to put together a solid budget that addresses issues both parties talk about.

A much more ambitious budget plan can be found in Bowles/Simpson.  These guys have studied the federal budget for years not 30 days like Ryan and Murray.  They propose both spending cuts and tax hikes to bring spending under control while actually reducing the debt.  But, the political climate in D.C. won't allow for a proposal such as theirs to be considered.  It's going to take some real political courage to pass a budget bill that accomplishes both issues.  And D.C. just won't rise to the occasion.

Meanwhile, the current compromise is stating that there are no new taxes or tax increases.  So, how does one spell tax?  F-E-E-'S!  A tax by another name.  This, in my opinion, is a tacit acknowledgement that the GOP recognizes that they need more revenue.

Now that the compromise has been reached let's see who supports it and who opposes it.  Stay tuned!

Tommy34684
Tommy34684

Don't listen to Rubio, he never has anything good to say on any subject. I think he wants Rush's job.

JamesGordon1
JamesGordon1

The  first  week of  the  government  shut  down I lost $5,000   Screw  the  republicans .I  may not  vote  for a  Democrat  ,,but I  sure will  not  vote  Republican,

sacredh
sacredh

"Congressional leaders struck a deal Tuesday to undo billions of dollars in automatic spending cuts that have frustrated both parties, a modest agreement that nevertheless raised hopes of an end to the nonstop budget battles and brinksmanship that have consumed Washington in recent years."

In other words, ever since the country first elected a black president.

yogi
yogi

Ryan: Senator Murray, hold out your hand riiight here.

jason024
jason024

@AmericanForRealChangeWhen lawmakers resort to using the term "fees" rather than "taxes" just to retain their anti-tax credentials, there is little hope for everyone coming to a common solution.  Let alone the radicals looking to oust what are largely considered conservative members of congress, the environment for compromise on big issues is not going to be easy. 


tom.litton
tom.litton

If you think Marco Rubio is the person to rally behind, then you haven't been paying attention.  He is pandering to the right on most issues now days.


Saying your for less spending and better jobs is one thing, having a plan for achieving it is another.  Everything i've seen from him (and i'll admit i haven't followed him closely) seems to be lowering taxes and cutting the social safety net, which will not create jobs (better or otherwise).

jason024
jason024

@AmericanForRealChangeIf he had good intentions then he should support this compromise as a first step and then encourage his colleagues to continue negotiations on the broader, long term debt problems. However given his now less than enthusiastic stance on immigration reform after previously being fully behind it, I doubt that will happen.

Sparrow55
Sparrow55

@AlphaJuliette

So, how does one spell tax?  F-E-E-'S!  A tax by another name.  This, in my opinion, is a tacit acknowledgement that the GOP recognizes that they need more revenue.

I seem to remember when Ronald Reagan agreed to raise taxes, they were called "revenue enhancements" in order to make them more palatable to the anti-tax folks.   



tom.litton
tom.litton

The CBO expects the debt to remain more or less stable for the next 10 years.  Yes debt has to be dealt with, but the more pressing matter now is jobs, and that takes spending.


Not to mention everything that has made us competitive in the last 50 years has eroded.  Our education system is mediocre at best.  Our highway system is in bad need of repair.  We lost almost all of our manufacturing to cheap labor in china and high tech in Germany.  India is graduating more engineers then us, and taking a large share of those jobs now.  Funding for research and technology has been dropping (we basically are giving all of space to China).


It takes money to solve all of those problems.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@JamesGordon1 Oddly enough, on another thread I was assured that you don't exist. Thanks for speaking up.


dectra
dectra

Viableop


You and your ilk only see doom and gloom where ever you look. You can't acknowledge that the 'boomer' issue was before us for decades, and previous administrations did very little to address it. Some, such as your golden boy Bush added to the problem with his prescription drug benefits. 



Now of course, you continue to cry 'woe is me' at every turn.......


Here's a better idea: Admit we made promises to those folks who spent a LIFETIME paying into Social Security and Medicare that we should honor. If it means the younger set need to 'tighten up' or opt for a different plan, so be it.  


But for the love of God, stop with the "we're all gonna' die" crap. It ain't helping.

jmac
jmac

@ViableOp  Was it "chronic" under Clinton?   He did hand Bush a budget surplus as he closed the gap between rich and poor, decreased government and held the National Debt in line.   Bush handed Obama over a trillion in a budget deficit his first year as he grew the government and doubled the National Debt.      Perhaps you mean by  'chronic' the Republican mind-set on the economy.  


Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@sacredh There is certainly that. Of course the last Democratic President was impeached so the republicans don't exactly have attack record of caring for the country. 

dectra
dectra

Paul

You might want to go back and review the record....Clinton wasn't convicted, regardless of the cheap side show put on by the republic party (lead by the hypocrite Newt Gingrich, who was sleeping with someone other than HIS wife at the time).

sacredh
sacredh

@Paul,nnto, besides being sore losers, they're just flat out unpatriotic.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

@dectra  Dectra, "impeach" is the trial, which there was. It doesn't mean convicted.