Budget Deal Passes, but Shutdown Threat Still Looms

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, hopes the deal will provide agencies with more stability. Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, hopes the deal will provide agencies with more stability. J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press

The Senate on Friday passed a budget framework to set spending levels for the next two years, but lawmakers have yet to complete their work for funding federal agencies.

The bipartisan deal, which passed with near unanimous support from Democrats but only a minority of Republicans in both chambers, raises sequester caps by $80 billion over fiscal years 2016 and 2017. While the deal sets the top-line spending levels, Congress must still write and pass line-by-line appropriations to establish funding levels for each agency.

Lawmakers normally would pass 12 individual bills to fund each area of the federal government, but the Dec. 11 deadline virtually assures that Congress will instead approve a sweeping, all-inclusive omnibus measure. President Obama expressed optimism the budget deal, which his administration negotiated directly with congressional leadership, would avoid the fiscal showdowns that have plagued the funding process and left agencies in the lurch in recent years.

“It locks in two years of funding and should help break the cycle of shutdowns and manufactured crises that have harmed our economy,” Obama said.

The Republican-led Appropriations Committees in both chambers made progress on spending bills prior to the recent budget agreement, but those were based on spending levels below even sequester caps and stood no chance of approval from Senate Democrats or the Obama White House. The president and congressional minority complained the Republican-backed funding bills would drastically shortchange federal agencies and prohibit them from properly carrying out their missions.

With sequester caps lifted, Obama called on Congress to advance clean appropriations bills without “poison” riders, such as a provision to defund Planned Parenthood.

“Congress should build on this by getting to work on spending bills that invest in America’s priorities without getting sidetracked by ideological provisions that have no place in America’s budget process,” Obama said.

Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, was also hopeful the deal would stave off a funding lapse and provide agencies with more stability.

“This bill will allow for certainty in the budget process for the next two years -- something that has been greatly lacking in this recent era of government shutdown showdowns,” Rogers said. “With this stability, Congress can make thoughtful, responsible decisions on how to fund federal agencies and programs, and avoid the unnecessary waste and harm that comes from lurching, unpredictable budget cycles.”

He added his committee will now begin the “hard work of negotiating and craft” an omnibus bill.

“As always, we will go line by line through agency budgets and make decisions to ensure the best possible use of every taxpayer dollar,” Rogers said. “I look forward to this essential and important work, and to the completion of the Appropriations process before the December 11 deadline.”

Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said he will use his existing, unpassed spending bills “as the basis for negotiations with our House counterparts.”

“Our final work product should responsibly provide the highest level of support to meet our national security needs, invest in national priorities like medical and scientific research and adopt much-needed oversight measures to rein in government overreach,” Cochran said. 

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