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U.S. Senate Passes Budget Deal

@AFP

Washington (AFP) – The Senate passed a bipartisan two-year budget accord on Wednesday, signaling greater U.S. fiscal stability in the year ahead and reducing the likelihood of a government shutdown in January.

The measure supported by nine Republicans and the entire Democratic caucus, lays out top-line spending limits for 2014 and 2015, while erasing $63 billion in automatic spending cuts that were to kick in on January 1. The legislation now heads to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.

It is expected to be signed by the president before he heads to Hawaii on Friday for his Christmas break.

The legislation was one of the final major accomplishments for Congress in 2013, which by all accounts has been a miserable year for American lawmakers.

Following the expected approval of a massive defense spending bill later this week as well as several executive and judicial nominations, the Senate heads to recess until early January.

Budget experts from the Senate and House of Representatives have until January 15 to craft a series of spending bills under the new limit, or risk another shutdown like the one that paralyzed Washington in October.

The bill increases the $967 billion cap for 2013 spending to $1.012 trillion next year and $1.014 trillion in 2015, and brings some normalcy to a process recently rocked by chaos.

Many Republicans including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the deal, arguing it slightly increases spending, breaking the limits set in 2011 legislation.

But for others, there was a sense of relief that Congress managed to pass its first budget agreement in years.

“With passage of this compromise budget deal, we’ll replace $63 billion in non-strategic sequester cuts and prevent another government shutdown, restoring much-needed certainty to… our economy as a whole,” Senator Tim Kaine said shortly after passage.

“There is more work to be done to replace the remaining non-strategic sequestration cuts and address our long-term fiscal challenges, but Congress has now shown that we can work together in a bipartisan way, as the American public demands and deserves.”

Photo: Alex Wong/AFP

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