Paul Ryan

U.S. Representative Paul Ryan (Getty Images)

NJ Daily
By Billy House, Tim Alberta and Sarah Mimms
December 10, 2013

After weeks of closed-door talks, House and Senate negotiators finally unveiled a two-year budget deal Tuesday that attempts to calm the long-fought feud over spending on Capitol Hill. But the question remains whether they can sell it to rank-and-file lawmakers.
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The deal is far from a grand bargain. But if approved by the House and Senate, the compromise would not only keep government funded and open beyond Jan. 15, but also would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years—all without new tax revenue.

“This is the first divided-government budget agreement since 1986,” said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, the chief Republican negotiator.

Whether the deal holds up could play out quickly. The House is expected to adjourn for the year on Friday, and leaders there are moving for floor action on the measure as early as Thursday. Ryan may face the most immediate challenge, meeting behind closed doors Wednesday morning to explain the agreement to skeptical House conservatives, many of whom have voiced opposition to any deal that raises spending levels.

Some Senate Republicans were also balking at the agreement Tuesday night.

“I’m concerned about it,” said Minority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, before the deal was even announced. “What I’ve heard is that it basically raises revenue through fee increases—doesn’t do anything to deal with the unsustainable entitlement issues and bust the budget caps.”

After the plan was released, Cornyn, who faces reelection in 2014, called it “concerning” and characterized it as “a more-spending plan.”

The deal sets top-line spending at $1.012 trillion for fiscal 2014, which exactly splits the numbers in the House and Senate budget proposals passed earlier this year. In fiscal 2015, the overall spending level would rise to $1.014 trillion.

The $63 billion in sequester relief is split evenly between defense and nondefense programs. In fiscal 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and nondefense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is described as being fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. In fact, the agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and nontax revenue totaling roughly $85 billion. In all, the proposal would save $28 billion over 10 years by requiring the president to sequester the same percentage of mandatory budgetary resources in 2022 and 2023 as will be sequestered in 2021 under current law.

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