The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

December 12, 2013

House Republicans get behind budget agreement

Deal would remove some automatic sequester cuts, ultimately keep deficit in check

Eds: Updates with Ryan quotes on morning TV interviews; Timing of vote uncertain. With BC-US--Bah Humbug Bipartisanship, BC-US--Budget Deal-Analysis, BC-US--Budget Battle-Glance. With AP Photos.

WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans are rallying behind a modest budget pact that promises to bring a temporary halt to budget brinkmanship in Washington and ease automatic budget cuts that would otherwise slam the Pentagon and domestic agencies for a second straight year.

At the same time, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats are praising the measure negotiated with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who morphed from an uncompromising small-government stalwart into a divided-Washington dealmaker in order to claim a partial victory on the budget.

The deal Ryan negotiated with Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would preserve the bulk of tough agency spending cuts the GOP won in a 2011 showdown with Obama, while greatly reducing the chances of a rerun of the politically debilitating partial government shutdown that the GOP stumbled into in October.

The measure, which was set for a vote Thursday, seemed sure to pass, despite unhappiness on the part of House Democrats cut out of the talks and also upset that it didn't contain a provision to renew jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed.

Nobody was claiming that the pact between the high-profile Ryan, his party's vice presidential nominee last year, and the tough-but-shrewd Murray, a 21-year veteran of the Senate, was perfect. It would ease $63 billion in scheduled spending cuts over the next two years and replace them with longer-term savings measured over 10 years, many of which won't accumulate until 2022-23. Deficits would increase by $23.2 billion in 2014 and by $18.2 billion the year after that.

But the deal would put a dysfunctional Washington on track to prevent unappealing cuts to military readiness and weapons, as well as continued cuts to programs cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike, including health research, school aid, FBI salaries and border security. The cuts would be replaced with money from — among other things — higher airline security fees, curbs on the pension benefits of new federal workers or working-age military retirees, and premium increases on companies whose pension plans are insured by the federal government.

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