Done Deal: Senate Passes Two-Year Budget Agreement

WASHINGTON – Despite pushback from conservative Republicans, the budget and debt ceiling deal struck by the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., easily passed the Senate Thursday afternoon.

Even with fears that the vote in the Senate would be tight, the legislation passed 67-28, with 23 Republicans and five Democrats voting against the bill.

Heading into the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., issued a tepid call on his caucus to pass the bill, reminding them “this is the agreement the administration has negotiated, this is the deal the House has passed, this is the deal President Trump is waiting and eager to sign into law.”

The bipartisan deal tamps down on the threat of a financial crisis, removed the threat of a government shutdown in October, and prevents automatic spending cuts that would have kicked in next month in the absence of an agreement.

The measure, which the president is expected to sign on Friday, permits the government to resume borrowing to pay all its bills and would set an overall $1.37 trillion limit on agency budgets approved by Congress annually.

Among the first to comment on the bill’s passage Thursday was House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who said she was pleased the bipartisan agreement increased funding for “critical domestic priorities, and removed the threat of sequestration once and for all.”

“More reasonable spending levels will enable us to invest for the people and better meet the needs of hardworking families,” she said.

The New York Democrat went on to say now that a bipartisan spending framework is in place, “the Senate must quickly get to work so that we can conference appropriations bills when Congress returns in September.”

But the deal hashed out last week by Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been roundly panned by fiscal conservatives on Capitol Hill and advocates for more restraint in federal budgeting.

Among those critics is Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who said Thursday’s vote “caps a shameful period of fiscal recklessness in Washington that is unprecedented in the context of our current fiscal state.”

The committee has pegged the cost of the deal at  $320 billion over two years and contends it will result in a 21 percent increase in discretionary spending since 2017.

At the same time, total U.S. government debt now stands at more than $22 trillion, and the Office of Management and Budget projects a $1 trillion deficit for 2019.

“Congress and the President have added $4.1 trillion to the debt since President Trump took office. As a result, deficits are more than double what they would have been without fiscally irresponsible tax cuts and spending increases,” MacGuineas said.

“Going forward, neither side can claim a mantle of responsible governing, and few have any moral ground to stand on – this is a bipartisan failure,” she added.

The Concord Group, a bipartisan advocacy organization, said in a statement that the agreement “was purchased at the cost of increasing the deficit and raising the debt. Less than a quarter of the proposed new spending would be offset and spending caps will be eliminated going forward.

“Few in Washington, including the president and those seeking the presidency in 2020, took notice last month when the Congressional Budget Office issued its annual update of the long-term budget outlook. They should have. The growing national debt and its projected path pose a threat to the economic future of our nation,” the organization said.

Trump himself took to Twitter to allay such concerns, urging Senate Republicans to “go for it” and vote for the bill.

“There is always plenty of time to Cut!” he promised.

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