Washington (AFP) – The U.S. Senate backed a bipartisan budget deal on Tuesday, virtually assuring passage of a bill that sets spending caps and reduces prospects of a government shutdown in 2014.
The bill, which has already won House approval, cleared a Senate procedural hurdle by 67 votes to 33 and is now expected to pass Congress Wednesday before the year-end recess.
President Barack Obama will sign the deal into law, which increases the $967 billion cap for 2013 spending to $1.012 trillion next year, and brings some normalcy to a process recently rocked by chaos.
Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney interpreted the progress as “some glimmers of hope that there might be a willingness to cooperate in a bipartisan way that we haven’t seen recently.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed “a vote against extremism,” in an nod to the conservative groups that were blamed for torpedoing a deal to prevent a government shutdown in October.
Passage will allow lawmakers to spend their holiday break crafting spending plans for government agencies such as the defense and agriculture departments.
Those appropriations must be agreed by January 15 to avoid another government shutdown.
The deal received support from all Democrats and 12 Republicans, a bigger than expected number given the opposition voiced by conservatives who feel it fails to sufficiently rein in federal spending.
Reid said a vote on final passage, which requires a simple majority in the 100-seat chamber, will take place on Wednesday.
The deal is a modest one. It eliminates $63 billion in the automatic spending cuts known in Washington as sequestration, and reduces the deficit by about $23 billion.
The accord does not close tax loopholes or include an extension of unemployment benefits, something Democrats have complained bitterly about.
Nor does it address reform of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, long sought by Republicans.
And it notably does not extend the debt ceiling, which Washington needs to raise by February if it wants to avoid a dangerous credit default.
“This bill is a compromise and that means neither side got everything we wanted,” Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Patty Murray told her colleagues.
Copyright 2013 The National Memo