Congress, White House Reach Deal on Spending Plan

VOA News

Congressional leaders have reached a tentative deal with the Obama administration on a government spending plan that could avoid another contentious budget standoff between the White House and hardline conservative Republicans.

The agreement is the result of weeks of negotiations led by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the leaders of the Republican-led House and Senate, plus House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic head Harry Reid.

The plan would fully fund the federal government and extend the government’s debt ceiling, or borrowing authority, through March 2017, two months after President Barack Obama leaves office.  The plan boosts spending for both military and domestic programs by about $50 billion in 2016, and another $30 billion in 2017, as well as an extra $16 billion a year for the Pentagon’s overseas war fighting budget. The extra funding lifts the automatic spending limits imposed by Congress under a 2011 budget deal.

The extra spending would be offset by long-term savings to the Social Security Disability Insurance program and a cap on payments to health care providers by Medicare, the federal government’s health insurance program for elderly Americans.

The plan must be approved by the House and Senate and signed by the president before next Tuesday, November 3, when the government’s current borrowing authority expires and the nation faces a first-ever default on its debt obligations.  Congressional leaders would then enter into negotiations to determine how to fund individual government agencies before December 11, when a temporary spending plan expires.

Another fast-approaching deadline is this Friday, when Boehner resigns, having been forced out by hardline conservatives angry over his willingness to negotiate with Democrats.  The deal would give Boehner a final legislative accomplishment and keep his likely successor, veteran Wisconsin lawmaker Paul Ryan, from facing a heated political battle in his first days in office.

The House could vote on the budget agreement as early as Wednesday, the day before they vote on a new House speaker.