Senate Budget Chair Patty Murray and her House counterpart Rep. Paul Ryan yesterday reached a deal determining the level of federal discretionary spending for the next two years. In particular, the deal reduces the impact of sequestration, the automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that went into effect in 2013.
Bipartisanship: A liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican stood together and announced a negotiated deal.
Pentagon: Military programs avoided a projected $20 billion cut in fiscal 2014.
Offshore Drilling: The deal may facilitate new drilling off the coast of Mexico.
Tax Breaks: Special tax breaks – like the loophole for corporate offshore profits, or the special low tax rate on capital gains and dividend income – will not be closed or even modified.
Uncertainty and Brinkmanship: After lurching from one manufactured budget crisis to another, this deal paves the way for budget certainty for two years.
The Long-Term Unemployed: A group of 1.3 million Americans, in many ways the people hardest hit by the Great Recession, will see their federal emergency unemployment compensation expire.
Federal Workers: Newly hired federal workers will be asked to contribute more to their retirement programs.
Budget Process: Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan should have come to an agreement on 2014 spending levels last spring as part of the normal budget process.
Transparency: This deal was brokered almost entirely by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan, with very few additional members of Congress participating. That means other legislators will be expected to vote on the bill shortly after seeing it for the first time. When the negotiating process cuts out most members of Congress, it also, by extension, means that ordinary Americans had little opportunity to influence the decisions made by lawmakers on our behalf.