Negotiators reach modest budget pact
WASHINGTON — Congressional negotiators reached a modest budget agreement Tuesday to restore about $63 billion in automatic spending cuts from programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon, with votes expected in both houses in the next several days.
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, leaving enough for a largely symbolic cut of more than $20 billion in the nation’s $17 trillion debt.
The deal “reduces the deficit by $23 billion and it does not raise taxes. It cuts spending in a smarter way” than the ones in effect, said Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican who chairs the House Budget Committee and was his party’s negotiator in several weeks of secretive talks.
The offsetting deficit cuts include a requirement for newly hired federal workers to make larger contributions to their own pensions. Also included were unspecified savings from military retirement programs.
Officials said Democrats had failed in their bid to include an extension of benefits for workers unemployed longer than 26 weeks. The program expires on Dec. 28, when payments will be cut off for an estimated 1.3 million individuals.
Congressional aides predicted bipartisan approval in both houses, despite grumbling from liberals over the omission of the unemployment extension, and even though tea party-aligned groups have already begun pushing Republican conservatives to oppose it.