In a major breakthrough after three years of paralyzing partisan rifts, Congress' top two budget chiefs finalized a bipartisan agreement Tuesday that would set spending levels for two years and mitigate some of the painful spending cuts required by the sequester.
The deal announced by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) would raise establish spending at $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 in 2015 -- up from the $967 billion required by the across-the-board sequester cuts. It provides for about $63 billion in sequester relief, divided equally among defense and non-defense programs.
The agreement offsets the sequester relief with a mix of targeted spending cuts and non-tax revenues via higher government fees and sales, totaling $85 billion over 10 years. That means it would reduce the deficit by $20-$23 billion. The revenue raisers include higher federal worker contributions to the pensions and higher airline ticket fees. In an effort to secure conservative support, none of the revenues come from the tax code.
"I see this agreement as a step in the right direction. In divided government, you don't always get what you want," Ryan told reporters on Tuesday evening, announcing the deal beside Murray. "This agreement is a clear improvement on the status quo."
"I am very proud to stand here today to announce with Chairman Ryan that we have broken through the partisan gridlock," Murray said. "Because of this deal the budget process can stop lurching from crisis to crisis."
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