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Friday, December 14, 2018

Washington (AFP) – A bipartisan U.S. budget deal looked increasingly likely to survive a crucial test vote Tuesday as lawmakers aim to end a miserably unproductive legislative year on a positive note.

Members of both parties acknowledge the vote in the Senate will be close, but on Monday it appeared there would be enough Republicans joining rival Democrats to head off attempts to block the measure, which has already passed the House of Representatives.

“It’s a pretty safe bet” that the budget accord will pass Tuesday’s procedural hurdle and be approved this week, the Senate’s number three Democrat Chuck Schumer told AFP late Monday.

The procedural vote is scheduled for 10:00 am.

The deal, struck by Senate Democrat Patty Murray and House Republican Paul Ryan, lays out spending caps for 2014 and 2015 and dramatically reduces the prospects of another government shutdown next year like the one that hog-tied Washington in October.

It creates $85 billion in savings and repeals some $63 billion in crippling automatic spending cuts — known in Washington as sequestration — that take effect January 1 unless Congress acts.

Some Senate conservatives, including potential 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio, stress the bill does not go far enough to reduce spending.

But at least eight Senate Republicans have signaled they are either backing the deal or will not act to block it, arguing that its two-year stability was crucial for pulling Washington out of a cycle of constant budget brawls.

“This agreement isn’t everything I’d hoped it would be, and it isn’t what I would have written. But sometimes the answer has to be yes,” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Monday.

Senators John McCain and Ron Johnson also expressed support, while Jeff Flake, Susan Collins and Richard Burr have reportedly signaled they will not attempt to block the bill, which needs 60 votes Tuesday to advance. Democrats control 55 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

The top congressional Republican, House Speaker John Boehner, supports the deal, and he is apparently leaning on Senate Republicans to get behind the agreement. An aide told AFP that “the budget deal came up” in Boehner’s weekend discussions with some Senate Republicans.

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