Senate to Vote on House Budget Deal

This week, the US Senate will vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 which would set the 2014 budget and avoid a second government shutdown when funding expires in January. The deal, created by the collaboration between Senator Patty Murray (D – Was.) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R – Wis.), attempts to compromise party position by promising long term cuts while offering a short term budget increase in an effort to ease cuts scheduled in 2014.

Budget Deal Avoids January Sequester

The primary selling point on the budget deal passed by the House is that it will avoid a second government shutdown after federal funding expires on January 15th, 2014.  The federal sequester earlier this year at the height of partisan bickering was something that both Paul Ryan and Patty Murray hoped would not be repeated when the two sat down to work on a budget compromise.  Although neither Republicans or Democrats come away satisfied with the budget, it has been touted as a positive step that will keep the federal government functioning throughout 2014.

Short Term Spending Increase to be Offset by Long Term Cuts

The House Budget will increase 2014 spending by $62 billion in an effort to relieve across the board program cuts that would otherwise have taken place.  Under the new agreement, spending targets for domestic and defense programs will increase from the $1.012 trillion in 2013 to $1.014 trillion.  From the Pentagon to scientific and medical research to social benefit programs, there are a number of federally funded domestic and defense programs that will continue to operate as a result of the deal.

However, both parties believe that the new budget leaves much to be desired.  Democrats in both the House and Senate believe that the deal does not offer enough funding for unemployment benefits or long term pension plans for federal and military employees.  Republicans, led by small government fiscal conservatives such as Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, have criticized the deal for increasing the 2014 spending – something many conservatives vowed to fight.  Although the Budget will decrease the national debt by $20 billion over the long term, many conservatives don’t believe that it will be in place or unaltered long enough for its objectives to be accomplished.

Senate to Vote on New Budget Deal

This week, the Senate is scheduled to vote on the House Budget in an effort to have the matter resolved before the winter holiday season.  While it is likely the deal will pass, there is growing opposition among conservative senators who believe that the deal concedes too much by increasing short term spending on domestic programs.  Both Paul Ryan and House Speaker Jim Boehner have, under intense criticism from the Right, defended the deal as being a positive and necessary step, but it appears that some Senate conservatives are not convinced.

Senators Marco Rubio (R – Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R – Texas) represent the opposition, with Rubio calling the deal “irresponsible” for allowing the continued trend of tax and spend economics that represent the Democrat agenda.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R – Ky.) has been working to get party members in line for the upcoming vote, arguing that resistance that will lead to a government shutdown is detrimental to the Republican party.  Ultimately, McConnell is correct – Republicans were widely blamed for the most recent shut down and are stuck with the decision of either fighting for the fiscally conservative ideals that they believe in or compromising and allowing for continued increase in government spending with the vague promise of long-term cuts. 

Should Republican leadership refuse to compromise on continued spending increases, it is possible the party could be buried under the criticism of a second sequester – a devastating blow during an election year.  With the harsh lesson of the October sequester still in the minds of Republican leadership, it seems the party is limited in how strong of a stance it can take against the new House Budget.  Democrats were forced to give up demands for unemployment benefits and long term pension spending, but otherwise seem to be content with the direction the House Budget is going.

With Democrats content, and Senate Republicans being convinced that recalcitrance could threaten the long-term goals of the party, it seems likely that the Senate will approve the Bipartisan Budget Act.  While President Obama did not get everything he wanted out of the deal, either, he has promised to sign it as a positive step in the right direction.  

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