US Senate passes budget deal with bipartisan support | News | DW | 30.10.2015
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US Senate passes budget deal with bipartisan support

The US senate has averted government shutdown by passing a two-year budget deal increasing spending by $80 billion. Passed without traditional acrimony, the bill has still been blasted by champions of fiscal restraint.

Senate representatives approved the deal on Friday 64-35. The agreement will ease fiscal pressure on the US federal government through the remainder of President Obama's term.

Terms were agreed on largely through secret negotiations between Democratic President Obama and Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner. Having announced his resignation from the post in September, Boehner sought to leave a government removed from threat of fiscal crisis. He officially stepped down on Thursday, and Paul Ryan has been elected as his replacement.

The House of Representatives passed the bill to the Senate after giving its stamp of approval on Wednesday. Both chambers have Republican Party majorities.

It now heads to President Obama for his signature.

Social and defense increases

The deal calls for a $50 billion (45 billion euros) spending increase in 2016 - putting discretionary spending at $1.067 trillion - and then a further $30 billion increase in 2017. New funds will be allocated to domestic programs and defense measures, the latter already comprising about half of the budget.

An additional $31 billion over two years has been added to an emergency war fund for the Defense and State departments, paid for by adjustments to welfare programs, including Social Security.

The also deal suspends a strict debt ceiling placed through mid-March 2017, by which time a new president will be in White House. Thereby the US government staves off an oncoming forced default.

The deadline for Congress to pass the bill was November 3, which is plenty of time to spare compared to recent budget negotiations. Some lasted until the last minute as the two parties fought for their demands through brinksmanship and one, in 2013, resulted in a government shutdown after no deal was made in time.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, praised the bipartisan support that passed the bill, which "will help prevent a government shutdown and avoid a disastrous default."

'A diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark AmEx Card'

Fiscal conservatives and Republican presidential candidates, on the other hand, have lambasted the deal as a sell-out to President Obama.

The bill's increased leeway for government spending clashes with the fiscal right's fixation on cutting down the country's $18 trillion budget deficit.

Senator Ted Cruz, whose campaign for the presidency is on the upswing, scolded Republican majorities in Congress on Thursday for handing the president "a diamond-encrusted, glow-in-the-dark AmEx card."

In an hour-long speech that delayed the vote, Senator Rand Paul, another presidential contender, called the bipartisan support for the bill an "unholy alliance."

He continued: "The left gets more welfare, the right gets more military contracts, and the taxpayer is stuck with the bill."

jtm/kms (AFP, AP)

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