US Congress negotiators reach budget deal

Updated: 2013-12-11 10:24


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WASHINGTON - Chief budget negotiators in the US Congress said Tuesday that they have struck a two-year deal to avoid a government shutdown on January 15.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, the top lawmakers on budgetary issues in their respective chambers, announced the deal at a news conference on Capitol Hill.

The deal, though falling short of a long-sought grand bargain to solve the overarching fiscal issues, would set the spending levels for the federal government over the next two years and turn off part of the automatic spending cuts, known as the sequester.

It sets a spending level of about 1.012 trillion US dollars for discretionary spending in the 2014 fiscal year, and 1.014 trillion dollars for the 2015 fiscal year, providing about 63 billion dollars in relief to the sequester over the next two years.

It leaves the entitlement programs and the tax code untouched and would not extend the federal unemployment benefits program, which is set to expire at the end of December.

"This agreement makes sure that we don't have a government shutdown scenario in January. It makes sure we don't have another government shutdown scenario in October. It makes sure that we don't lurch from crisis to crisis," said Ryan as he introduced the agreement.

"This deal doesn't solve all of our problems, but I think it is an important step in helping heal some of the wounds here in Congress," said Murray.

A 29-member bipartisan congressional panel, led by Murray and Ryan, have been meeting for weeks to try to forge an agreement to fund the government after January 15 and replace sharp automatic spending cuts. Its task was mandated in a budget deal reached in October to end the 16-day partial government shutdown and raise the debt limit.

The panel has a December 13 deadline to produce a plan.