Fri, Feb 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US Senate leaders reach budget deal

BIPARTISAN AGREEMENT:The debt ceiling would be raised until March next year, essentially clearing the decks for US Congress to address issues such as immigration

AFP, WASHINGTON

US Senate leaders on Wednesday said that they had reached a bipartisan budget deal for this year and next — a move which, if approved by the US Congress, would avert a second government shutdown in just three weeks.

The deal, months in the making, was seen as a major achievement for both the ruling Republicans and opposition Democrats in a deeply divided Washington.

The breakthrough came on the eve of a deadline for the US Congress to pass a stopgap spending measure — its fifth since October last year — or once again turn the lights out on the federal government.

The proposal would lift caps on federal spending that were mandated under a 2011 law, boosting military and non-military funding by about US$300 billion, aides said.

“The compromise we’ve reached will ensure that, for the first time in years, our armed forces will have more of the resources they need to keep America safe,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the US Senate floor.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a defense hawk, said it was the “best news for the military ... since 2011.”

The agreement would also ensure funding for domestic priorities pushed by Democrats, including disaster relief, health centers and fighting a surging opioid epidemic.

“The budget deal doesn’t have everything Democrats want, it doesn’t have everything the Republicans want, but it has a great deal of what the American people want,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer told his colleagues.

The deal raises the debt ceiling until March next year, postponing a potential fiery clash within US President Donald Trump’s Republican Party, and essentially clears the decks for the US Congress to address other thorny issues such as immigration and infrastructure.

Before the deal was announced, the House of Representatives passed a partisan bill that would fund the government for six weeks and the military through the remainder of this fiscal year.

The US Senate is now expected to rewrite that measure, pass it and send it back for House approval before the funding deadline — provided there are no efforts to slow the process in the Senate.

McConnell and Schumer said the deal was the product of extensive negotiations between both parties and the White House, which reacted positively to developments on Capitol Hill.

“We’re certainly happy with the direction that it’s moving,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, adding that the White House would need to see the final components.

That was a turnaround from Tuesday, when Trump had said he would “love” a shutdown if he did not get his way on immigration.

House Speaker Paul Ryan urged all representatives to support the deal, saying it breaks the “logjam” on public priorities and “will ensure that America’s armed forces have more of the resources they need to keep America safe.”

In a statement, he also said the agreement includes investments in infrastructure and resources to combat the opioid crisis, as well as nearly US$90 billion in disaster relief for hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and the US Virgin Islands, but the compromise could face a stiff blowback in the House, where fiscal conservatives could balk at adding US$300 billion to the national debt just months after passing a US$1.5 trillion tax cut package.

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