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Budget framework on the way to Obama

on December 17 | in The Top Spot | by | with No Comments

Senate sends budget to Obama
By Ramsey Cox and Erik Wasson at The Hill

The Senate on Wednesday gave final passage to a two-year budget plan in a 64-36 vote.

Nine Republican senators voted with 55 Democrats and Independents to pass the budget deal, which sets top-line spending levels for 2014 and 2015, allowing appropriators to get to work on an omnibus spending bill for the current fiscal year.

While Congress will have to approve that package to prevent another government shutdown after Jan. 15, the bipartisan votes in the House and Senate have raised hopes that Washington is moving on from years of budgetary showdowns.

Update 12/18/13:
Sen. Chambliss takes the floor to address military veterans cuts in the Budget Deal. Along with him were Sen. Isakson and Sen. Murray.

December 17, 2013

From Sen. Chambliss’ statement:

Mr. President, I rise today to speak on the bipartisan budget deal that is currently before the Senate.

Chairmen Ryan and Murray have shown us true leadership on divisive and complex budget issues. The legislation we have before us today is the embodiment of compromise – something that has unfortunately been absent in Washington as of late.

They have crafted a bill that sets forth the guidelines for spending for the remainder of this fiscal year and the platform for the next.

This deal will set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion – an amount that is approximately halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the budget the House passed at $967 billion.

This is also less than the spending level set forth in Chairman Ryan’s 2011 budget.

While the overall spending number is higher than what I would have wanted, the House and Senate Budget Committee Chairmen were able to craft a budget deal that produces $23 billion in net deficit reduction.

Importantly, they also produced a budget that will set in place some fiscally responsible spending policies.

Regardless of how each Member of this chamber feels about the resulting policy, we all should recognize the importance of this agreement and thank the Chairmen for their tireless work to end this chapter of political disagreement.

Although I would still prefer a grand bargain to solve our fiscal crisis, this deal marks the first step in that journey. Congress will now be in a much better position to tackle the issues of taxation and entitlement reform in the near future.

Mr. President, the budget deal before us is not perfect, and there is one provision related to military retirement pay that will certainly have to be addressed after the passage of this bill.

I am told by Pentagon officials this provision came out of nowhere, and have roundly criticized it as unfair. Our military men and women should not have a disproportionate share in our deficit reduction measures.

However, I feel confident this issue will be resolved in the near term. I know the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services committee share my concern, and I look forward to working with them to address this issue in the New Year.

Many Georgians have served with honor in our military, and while the changes to their annual cost of living increase may appear insignificant on paper, this is real money promised to those who have put their lives in harm’s way in defense of this nation.

I want to assure our service men and women that there is ample time to address this issue before it takes effect in December of 2015.  I am committed to addressing it, and I will not turn my back on those who fight for this country.

That said – this budget deal is a necessary and crucial step towards a functioning Congress.

With passage of this budget deal, we can close the book on discretionary spending arguments for the foreseeable future

We can turn our full attention to entitlement and tax reform as Congress debates raising the debt ceiling again.

Also with this bill, we will no longer need to provide additional flexibility for defense spending.

This bill will give the defense community the resources they need. In conversations with top officials at the Pentagon and within the intelligence community, they have urged the support of this bill as a way to address their current budget crisis.

I was pleased the approach the Budget Chairmen took will not turn off the sequester, but will instead extend the mandatory cuts for an additional two years beyond what the Budget Control Act prescribed.

Mr. President, with this budget deal we can also put in place a 302a budget allocation – the top line number that Congress can spend on discretionary spending.

This will – for the first time in several years – allow the Appropriations Committee to actually do its job as is intended.

Our appropriators had previously been forced to make spending decisions without a top line number, and through continuing resolutions. They had no information, no guidance.

It’s no wonder that our spending has caught up to us.

The country benefits when Congress approaches the appropriations process through regular order, and not through last minute continuing resolutions.

This agreement makes that more likely.

The Budget Committee Chairmen have also made a good faith effort to attack the real problems in our budget, by cutting money from mandatory programs rather than searching for more discretionary cuts.

In their agreement, they took notice of how often the Federal government has given special treatment to certain groups, and they have taken efforts to curb that.

While many outside groups may attack these reforms, they are representative of the types of reforms that will have to be included in any future agreement to achieve entitlement reform – which is where the real problem in our federal budget lies.

Mr. President, this deal does little to address out $17 trillion debt. But it is a start down that road and I truly hope this will lead to more serious discussions about our debt.

In all Mr. President, this budget deal represents a partial completion of the work the American people expect from us.

It is far from perfect, and leaves much to be desired. But the prospect of compromise on the single most important issue of our time requires the attention of every member of this body.

I will vote for the passage of this bill because it lays the groundwork for the next chapter in our pursuit of fiscal sanity.

Mr. President, for 3 and a half years now Sen. Warner and I have been involved in seeking out a much larger debt and deficit reduction deal than what is currently before us.

We know the American people are tired of out-of-control spending and don’t understand why Congress can’t address our $17 trillion debt.

It’s not rocket science. Bowles-Simpson gave us a roadmap 3 years ago this month. I regret the White House has not followed the leadership of its own commission.

But this bill represents a small step towards the type of cooperation that will be necessary to comprehensively address our debt and deficit. It is my hope that this agreement allows that effort to restart in a meaningful way.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.

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