Wed, Oct 28, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Tenative US budget agreement reached

DEADLINES LOOM:The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote today on a package that would suspend the US$18.1 trillion debt limit through March 2017


US House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, left, and Representative Fred Upton laugh as they walk from a meeting of Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday.

Photo: AP

US House of Representatives Republican leaders struck a budget deal made with the White House just before midnight on Monday aimed at averting a government shutdown and forestalling a debt crisis.

House Speaker John Boehner was making one final appeal to restive Republicans: Pass the hard-won agreement with US President Barack Obama before Representative Paul Ryan assumes the speaker’s job later this week. However, he encountered immediate resistance when he laid out the plan on Monday night. His plan is for members to vote on the deal today.

The budget pact, in concert with a must-pass increase in the federal borrowing limit, would solve the thorniest issues awaiting Ryan, who is set to be elected speaker tomorrow.

The deal would also take budget showdowns and government shutdown fights off the table until after next year’s presidential election, a potential boon to Republican candidates who might otherwise face uncomfortable questions about messes in the Republican-led Congress.

Congress must raise the federal borrowing limit by Tuesday next week or risk a first-ever default, while money to pay for government operations runs out Dec. 11 unless Congress acts. The emerging framework would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies two years of budget relief of US$80 billion in exchange for cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Outlined for rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door session, the budget relief would total US$50 billion in the first year and US$30 billion in the second year.

“Let’s declare success,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Republicans, according to Representative David Jolly as the leadership sought to rally support for the emerging deal.

A chief selling point for Republican leaders is that the alternative is chaos and a stand-alone debt limit increase that might be forced on Republicans, but conservatives in the conference who drove Boehner to resign were not ready to fall in line.

“This is again just the umpteenth time that you have this big, big, huge deal that’ll last for two years and we were told nothing about it,” Representative John Fleming said.

“I’m not excited about it at all,” Representative Matt Salmon said. “A two-year budget deal that raises the debt ceiling for basically the entire term of this presidency.”

The measure would suspend the current US$18.1 trillion debt limit through March 2017.

The budget side of the deal is aimed at undoing automatic spending cuts which are a byproduct of a 2011 budget and debt deal and the failure of Washington to subsequently tackle the government’s fiscal woes. Republican defense hawks are intent on reversing the automatic cuts and getting more money for the military.

The focus is on setting a new overall spending limit for agencies whose operating budgets are set by Congress each year. It is up to the House and Senate Appropriations committees to produce a detailed omnibus spending bill by the Dec. 11 deadline.

The tentative pact anticipates designating further increases for the Pentagon as emergency war funds that can be made exempt from budget caps. Offsetting spending cuts that would pay for domestic spending increases included curbs on certain Medicare payments for outpatient services provided by hospitals and an extension of a 2-percentage-point cut in Medicare payments to doctors through the end of a 10-year budget.

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