Osburn: Congress finally passes a budgetWritten by Ben Osburn | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Just in time for the holidays, for the first time in more than four years, Congress and the President have finally agreed on a federal budget. In a time when partisan brinksmanship is running rampant, even within the parties themselves, the newly passed budget will ensure that a government shutdown will not happen for at least another two years.
The budget won a solid majority in the Senate, with 64 Senators approving, including nine republicans. The bill was met with even great enthusiasm in the House, with solid majorities of both parties supporting it, 332-94. The deal sets spending levels through 2015, and restores many of the non-mandatory spending cuts that came as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
The crafters of the bill were former Vice Presidential nominee and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray. Both Murray and Ryan concede that neither the Democrats nor Republicans fully got what they wanted in the deal, but ended up finding common ground in separate budgets that both the House and Senate passed separately. Congressman Ryan went into the deal not wanting to raise taxes, and wanting to reduce the deficit. He got his wish. Restoration of non-mandatory programs like a $2 billion increase in defense spending will be paid for by a balance of increased airline fees and the elimination of entitlement fraud. The bill would also be paid for by decreases in federal employee wages and benefits, particularly for new employers. Ryan however did agree to compromise by including funding for the Affordable Care Act in the budget, as well as not pushing for entitlement reform.
On the flip side, Senator Murray did not get the extension of unemployment benefits that she and her fellow Democrats wanted that expire this month for 1.3 million Americans. She and her party did however get restoration of social welfare programs like Head Start and Meals on Wheels: programs that are designed to help the poor. The bill also does not include any new stimulus spending, a rallying cry for the left as a means to stimulate the economy by funding improvements to public roads and bridges.
The bill was met with skepticism from the far-right, as many in the tea party caucus decried it as not tackling the debt enough. Many in the caucus believe that the sequester cuts were a necessary way to keep spending under control. The issue has brought tension in the Republican Party that will be evident in the upcoming 2014 Senate primaries, as far-right challengers are gearing up face longtime Washington players like Senate Minority leader Mitch Mcconnell and Lindsey Graham. The tension was also felt in the House as speaker John Boehner recently spoke out against the caucus and groups that didn’t support the bill by saying they’ve “lost all credibility.”
Political squabbling aside, it is hard to determine whether or not this new budget deal will bring about more compromise in Washington, especially with the primary season right around the corner. There are many in Washington that believe that immigration reform and the minimum wage are the next two issues that will be brought up. If there is one thing for certain however, it’s that this deal will bring a sense of stability to the American public and to the economy that the country is in dire need of.
Tags: Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress, Democrats, Federal budget, government shutdown, Head Start, House Speaker John Boehner, Lindsey Graham, Meals on Wheels, nemployment benefits, President Obama, Republicans, Senate, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, Senate Minority leader Mitch Mcconnell, social welfare programs, Vice Presidential nominee and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan