Congress proved overnight that it isn't completely dysfunctional by reaching a tentative compromise budget deal with the White House to extend America's debt limit through 2017, potentially avoiding a second government shutdown in two years.
The two-year deal, which would raise the federal debt ceiling and lift mandatory sequestration cuts on both defense and domestic spending, has been hailed as a milestone for progress after years of partisan bickering. It's also a small triumph for outgoing House Speaker John Boehner, who will cede his post at the end of the week.
The House is expected to vote on the 144-page bipartisan funding bill as early as Wednesday, but support from right-wing Republicans is far from guaranteed. A "discussion draft" was posted online late Monday night, and debate about the deal is set to resume Tuesday. Lawmakers hope to finalize the agreement before Boehner leaves office Friday, ahead of the November 3 debt limit deadline. Government funding is currently set to expire on December 11.
A White House official urged members of Congress from both parties to pass the compromise deal on Tuesday, saying it protects both Social Security and Medicare beneficiaries from cuts
"It's a responsible agreement that is paid for in a balanced way by ensuring that hedge funds and private equity firms pay the taxes they owe and by cutting billions in wasteful spending," the official said in a statement.
As part of the deal, congressional leaders proposed selling 58 million barrels of oil from US emergency reserves over six years to help pay for an end to mandatory spending cuts, according to a copy of the bill posted to a congressional website. The oil sales would begin the 2018 fiscal year.
The pact also eases across-the-board budget caps, which would allow an additional $80 billion in spending over two years, split evenly between military and domestic programs. About $50 billion in added spending would come in the 2016 fiscal year, which started on October 1. Another $30 billion would be added to the fiscal 2017 budget.
"The bipartisan budget package unveiled last night represents real progress for hard-working families across the country," House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. "At long last, we have broken the sequester's stranglehold on our national defense and our investments in good-paying jobs and the future of America."
Some Republicans were less than impressed by Boehner's negotiating efforts. Louisiana Republican Representative John Fleming said the speaker "threw committee chairmen under the bus" in the push to get a deal, while Michigan Republican Justin Amash said lawmakers are "really tired of the top-down, micromanagement where you have just a few people, or in this case just the speaker and his team, determining the outcome."
One Republican who has remained notably silent on the agreement is Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Boehner's anticipated successor, who declined to comment to reporters on Monday. Ryan is expected to assume the House's top spot when an election is held Thursday.
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