With the government reopened and default averted, congressional budget committee leaders began talks to prevent a fiscal crisis from reoccurring within months.
Congressional budget committee heads Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) emerged from a meeting Oct. 17 at which talks began over a bipartisan budget compromise due Dec. 13. Both struck positive notes, although skepticism runs high because of repeated past failures to find common ground.
"The key now is a budget that cuts out the things that we don't need, closes corporate tax loopholes that don't help create jobs, and frees up resources for the things that do help us grow — like education and infrastructure and research." President Barack Obama
Just minutes into Oct. 17, President Obama signed a bill that reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling to avoid a government default on the nation's debt. The budget deal was approved earlier that evening by the House (in a 285-144 vote) and the Senate (in a 81-18 vote).
The deal immediately ended the shutdown and funded the federal government until Jan. 15, while raising the debt ceiling until Feb. 7. It also requires a bipartisan group of lawmakers to work out a long-term budget plan by Dec. 13. Members of Congress will also forgo a pay raise for the fifth year in a row.
The deal left Obamacare virtually unscathed, to the dismay of many House Republicans. It required income verification for those applying for health care subsidies, and the Dept. of Health and Human Services will have until July to issue a report on how it will protect against fraud.
The GOP is divided as ever following the 16-day government shutdown and debt ceiling fight that yielded no significant concessions from Democrats, pitted the party's deeply conservative rank-and-file against its own leaders in both chambers, and sent the GOP's job approval rating plunging to 20%.
Congressional negotiators on Dec. 8 were finalizing what would be the first successful budget deal since 2011. It's expected to pass this week. The budget would partially repeal the sequester and raise spending to $1.015 trillion in fiscal 2014-2015. The deal would do nothing to trim the debt, now $17.3 trillion and rising.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said in a Nov. 20 report that it estimates the deadline for raising the debt ceiling to be in March 2014. However, depending on the volume of tax refunds and receipts in those months, the real deadline may be as late as June.
Treasury Sec. Jack Lew sent a letter to Congress Dec. 19 urging it to raise the nation's debt ceiling before Feb. 7— the date through which Congress agreed to extend the borrowing limit in October. Lew noted that the government will likely not hit the debt ceiling until sometime after the Feb. 7 deadline.
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