Congressional negotiators announced Tuesday that they'd reached a budget proposal to restore about $65 billion worth of sequestration cuts in exchange for cuts elsewhere and additional fees.
If approved by both the House and Senate, the plan — hammered out by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington — would avoid another government shutdown on Jan. 15.
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday evening, Ryan said the budget plan doesn't raise taxes and that it's a "step in the right direction."
He said he sees the deal passing in the GOP-controlled House.
"What am I getting out of this? I'm getting more deficit reduction. So the deficit will go down more by passing this than if we did nothing," he said.
Murray said: "We have broken through the partisanship and gridlock" that could have caused another government shutdown.
President Obama called the proposal a "good first step," but he urged Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits past their expiration at the end of the calendar year.
The Tea Party Express, which calls itself the nation's largest Tea Party political action committee, said the deal announced Tuesday was disappointing.
"If the Sequestration was a baby step forward, this is a baby step backward," Chairman Amy Kremer said in a statement. "Americans deserve better than a compromise that continues excessive spending, adding fees in lieu of taxes."
A statement from Murray's office says the two-year deal would "set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion — about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion."
The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.
The Associated Press writes:
Officials said the increases would be offset by a variety of spending reductions and increased fees elsewhere in the budget totaling about $85 billion over a decade, enough for a largely symbolic cut of roughly $20 billion in the nation's $17 trillion debt.
The Washington Post wrote earlier:
Senior aides familiar with the talks have said the emerging agreement aims to raise agency spending to roughly $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014 and 2015. That would bring agency budgets up to the target already in place for fiscal 2016.
Republican leaders were also seeking additional savings [to] reduce deficits projected to exceed $6 trillion over the next decade. But the deal is not expected to trim the debt, which is now larger, as a percentage of the economy, than at any point in U.S. history except during World War II.
According to the AP:
The bipartisan push for a budget agreement stems from automatic cuts that are themselves the consequence of divided government's ability to complete a sweeping deficit reduction package in 2011.
If left in place, the reductions would carve $91 billion from the day-to-day budgets of the Pentagon and domestic agencies when compared with spending limits set by the hard-fought 2011 budget agreement.
Support for a deal to ease the reductions is strongest in Congress among defense hawks in both houses and both parties who fear the impact on military readiness from a looming $20 billion cut in Pentagon spending.
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement before the news conference on Tuesday: "It's disingenuous for Republicans to surrender the only real spending reforms [sequestration] accomplished under the Obama Administration, and call that a deal.
"Immediate spending and revenue hikes without long-term reforms to spending and entitlement programs isn't a deal, it's just another manufactured, govern-by-crisis shakedown."