House passes bipartisan agreement on debt ceiling and FY2016-17 budgets

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015

Today the House passed (H.R. 1314) a bipartisan budget agreement (266-167) that would increase the debt ceiling and set budget levels for the next two years. Seventy-nine Republicans joined 187 Democrats in voting for the agreement.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) called the agreement “a good deal for our troops, for taxpayers, and for the American people.” Boehner said the agreement “will protect our economy” and secure more long-term entitlement reforms.” In addition, he said the agreement “strengthens our national security and brings more certainty to next year’s appropriations process.”

The White House has indicated that the president will sign the bill.

This agreement comes just before the debt ceiling will be breached next week (November 3 according to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew) and the Continuing Resolution, which is funding the federal government, runs out on December 11.

Completing the deal was a goal of outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) before he left office. Boehner is set to retire on October 31.

The “Bipartisan Budget Act” would suspend the debt ceiling until March 2017, in effect allowing the government to borrow as much as it needs until then. At that time the debt ceiling would have to be raised.

The new total government funding levels would be $1.067 trillion in FY2016 and $1.070 trillion in FY2017.

Setting new budget levels for 2016 and 2017 will put off the next sequestration battle until after the 2016 elections.

Funding increases would be offset by cuts coming from reforms to the Disability Insurance Trust Fund and Social Security, such as closing loopholes and requiring medical reviews Medicare and extending the Medicare sequester into 2025. Some other savings would come from changes to the crop insurance program and sales form the Strategic Oil Reserve.

The new funding limits (in effect raising the spending caps) provides an additional $80 billion equally divided between defense and nondefense in FY2016 and FY2017, but keeps sequestration in place after that. As a result of the deal, Democrats and the Republicans get some of, but not all of what they wanted. Democrats did not get their desired long-deal that dealt with sequestration, but got matching increases for nondefense spending in 2016 and 2017. Republicans got defense increases in 2016 and 2017 and achieved some entitlement reform, but did not get cuts to nondefense programs.

Defense base budgets would be raised by $25 billion in FY2016 under the agreement. Funding for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account would be increased by $8 billion in FY2016. These increases replace the Republican backed approach to use the OCO fund for base budget activities, highly criticized by the White House and congressional Democrats and the major cause of a presidential veto of the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill. This agreement should allow Congress to revise the bill to make a presidential signature more likely.

The deal would also stops a potential 52 percent increase in Medicare premiums for some 8 million enrollees. This has been a priority for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and many Republicans and Democrats.

If the bill passes the Senate, as is likely, appropriators will move to finish action on the 12 FY2016 appropriations bills before the CR runs out on December 11. House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) said “it is my goal to complete our Appropriations work ahead of that date to avoid any more delays, continuing resolutions, or ‘shutdown showdowns’ that hurt important federal programs, our economy, and trust in the Congress.”

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