Congress

Budget passes Senate

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The Senate voted 64-36 to pass legislation Dec. 18 that sets government spending levels for fiscal 2014 and 2015 and rolls back about two-thirds of planned sequester cuts.

The measure, which the House passed Dec. 12, caps the discretionary budget for 2014 at $1.012 trillion, with $520.5 billion going to defense spending and $491.8 billion for non-defense. It also contains $23 billion in promised deficit reduction through increased federal fees and higher pension contributions from government employees.

Congress was facing a Jan. 15, 2014, deadline to pass a budget or a continuing resolution to avoid a repeat of October's partial government shutdown. Although the bipartisan budget compromise, which amends the Budget Control Act of 2011 and rolls back sequester cuts, might look like a break in the partisan fever that has gripped the divided Congress, there is a lot of heavy lifting left to do. With the budget passed, Congress now has until Jan. 15 to come up with proposed allocations for spending for each of the 12 appropriations buckets.

The budget includes $63 billion in sequester relief spread over two years, and the agreement means that appropriators will get to decide how the remaining cuts are made.

"It makes sense to replace these meat-ax cuts with smarter and more balanced savings," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and an architect of the budget plan along with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

But the appropriations process still holds perils for federal managers and employees. There is about $44.8 billion in sequester relief built into the fiscal 2014 budget. Discretionary non-defense spending will be up $21 billion and discretionary defense spending up just $2 billion over 2013 spending. Appropriators will have to determine how those savings are distributed across the various agencies and at the level of programs and accounts.

"There are still cuts that remain, and it's going to be difficult for [lawmakers] to come up with [them]," said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

White House officials have previously indicated that President Barack Obama will sign the measure into law.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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Reader comments

Wed, Dec 18, 2013 Charles Hurst

So a budget passes that basically does the absolute minimal to address our 17 trillion dollar and growing deficit. The nerve of the Tea Party getting into Boehner's face about not continuing toward the abyss. Now I have been told that this sort of rhetoric is nothing but drama displayed toward the GOP. Us fanatics who are impeding the government's ability to run. What exactly is fanatic? To say we shouldn't support illegal aliens as by definition they aren't supposed to be here, have broken our laws and shouldn't get one dime in support. Is the almighty Progressive that devoid of common sense? That engulfed in anti reason? Or how about a basic economic fact. A law if you will. If you continue to borrow eventually you will collapse. Another fanatic argument I know. The rational approach is we should just keep spending into further deficit, right? Or how about if you continue to grow a population that is "disabled" then eventually there will not be enough money to support anything? I was medical provider so I'll claim to be the expert on the "disabled." A few are legitimate. A lot aren't. Most, not a few, but most are lazy welfare recipients that have no intention of ever supporting themselves. Very few people are incapable of doing anything at all. So I guess the above principles are that right wing fanaticism again. I write about collapse of society. It's not hard to imagine--just look in front of you and keep saying everything is fine. In the end we'll find it's not going to be fine at all. Charles Hurst. Author of THE SECOND FALL. An offbeat story of Armageddon. And creator of THE RUNNINGWOLF EZINE.

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