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US budget deal reached to avoid shutdown

© Photo: AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-11

US House and Senate negotiators reached a tentative budget deal on Tuesday to avoid a January 15 government shutdown. Senate Democrat Patty Murray and House Republican Paul Ryan unveiled the deal after weeks of closed-door negotiations.

Congressional negotiators reached a two-year deal on US federal spending on Tuesday, budget officials said, which if passed by lawmakers would avoid a disastrous repeat of a government shutdown that paralysed Washington in October.

President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a sign of rare bipartisan cooperation in the strife-filled US legislature.

"It's a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done," the president said shortly after the deal was announced.

The agreement's main brokers, Democratic Senator Patty Murry and House Republican Paul Ryan, said it sets the new annual budget caps for 2014 and 2015 at just over $1 trillion -- slightly higher than current levels -- and at least partially repeals the automatic, widely loathed budget cuts known as "sequestration".

"I see this agreement as a step in the right direction," Ryan, the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee and chairman of the House Budget Committee, told reporters, noting that the deal does not raise taxes on Americans.

"We have broken through the gridlock and reached a bipartisan budget compromise that will prevent a government shutdown in January," added Murray, the Senate's top budget chief, who said she and Ryan set aside their political differences to reach a compromise over weeks of negotiations.

"We agree that our country needs some certainty and we need to show that we can work together," she added.

Under a deal reached in October that ended a crippling 16-day shutdown, federal spending authority expires on January 15, when a new agreement will need to be in force.

Conservatives sceptical

By most accounts, Tuesday's deal is an underwhelming one, far from the grand bargain envisioned by some optimists in Washington earlier this year.

But it sets the warring Democratic and Republican Parties on track for further cooperation on fiscal policy, ending the cycle of budget feuding that has marred Washington since 2011.

The challenge now, however, is selling the agreement to sceptical conservatives and liberals in the House of Representatives and US Senate.

Each chamber must pass a budget bill by January 15 or risk another government shutdown.

Conservative groups such as Americans For Prosperity have already come out opposed to the agreement, saying it blows past the budget caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-11

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