Senate Leaders Announce Two-Year Budget Deal to Boost Spending by $300 Billion

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters Tuesday.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., speaks to reporters Tuesday. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Congressional leadership on Wednesday reached a bipartisan spending agreement that would set top-line funding levels for all federal agencies for the next two years, increasing spending at defense and non-defense agencies by a total of $300 billion.

The deal would stave off a shutdown by punting the deadline for six more weeks, allowing appropriators to write an omnibus bill that sets line-by-line funding levels across government. It would mark the third such two-year agreement to allow agencies to exceed the spending caps established by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The measure would also suspend the debt ceiling until March 2019. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the deal would “fully repeal” the caps on domestic spending, which would see a $131 billion funding increase over fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Democrats have called for parity for defense and domestic agencies’ spending increases, a demand that to this point had log jammed budget negotiations.

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“I'm pleased to announce that we have reached a two-year budget deal to lift the spending caps for defense and urgent domestic priorities far above current spending levels,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. “After months of legislative logjams, this budget deal is a genuine breakthrough. After months of fiscal brinkmanship, this budget deal is the first real sprout of bipartisanship, and it should break the long cycle of spending crises that have snarled this Congress and hampered our middle class.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the deal represented a compromise from both sides.

“No one would suggest it is perfect, but we worked hard to find common ground and stay focused on serving the American people,” McConnell said. “First and foremost, this bipartisan agreement will unwind the sequestration cuts that have hamstrung our armed forces and jeopardized our national security.”

Both Schumer and McConnell noted the assistance the agreement will provide to agencies fighting the opioid epidemic, providing veterans health care, and investing in various research and infrastructure projects. Schumer repeatedly noted the benefit of the reprieve from spending caps President Obama signed into law in 2011.

The deal, he said, will “finally consign the arbitrary and pointless sequester caps to the ash heap of history.”

The deal’s passage is not yet assured. While it will likely easily sail through the Senate, several factions in the House have voiced concerns. Conservative lawmakers are opposed to the dramatic spending increases while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., threatened to withhold the support of her colleagues unless House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., agreed to hold an open voting process on immigration legislation. McConnell has already made that promise, which he repeated on Wednesday. Those votes will center around dealing with the status of immigrants whose protective status on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will soon expire.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders declined to say definitively that President Trump would sign the budget agreement if it reaches his desk, but praised the measure for boosting military spending, ending the sequester and providing two years of budget certainty. 

"We applaud the steps forward that they’ve made, but we’re gonna need to see what is in the final bill," Sanders said. "But we’re certainly happy with the direction that it’s moving, particularly that we’re moving away from the crisis budgeting that we’ve been on in the past."

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