U.S. Budget Week: Senate to Vote Next Week on Ryan-Murray Accord

Published Dec 13, 2013. By John Shaw.

WASHINGTON (MNI) - The fiscal agreement negotiated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray flew through the House Thursday and is expected to be approved by the Senate next week - although probably at a slower pace and with more contention.

The House approved the Ryan-Murray agreement Thursday on a 332 to 94 vote, with 169 Republicans and 163 Democrats voting for the bill.

The measure now goes to the Senate where the bill could face several procedural hurdles and two 60-vote thresholds: one to waive all budget points of order and other to limit the debate. Passage of the bill will require a simple majority vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Friday the Senate will take up the budget package Tuesday. It is unclear when the final Senate vote will be on the budget bill.

Reid also said the Senate will consider later next week the nomination of Janet Yellen to be chairman of the Federal Reserve Board.

During the debate in the House, Speaker John Boehner said the budget accord represents progress on fiscal policy. "Is it perfect? Does it go far enough? No, not at all. But this budget is a positive step in that direction," he said.

The Ryan-Murray budget agreement sets overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion - about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. Discretionary spending for FY'15 will be $1.014 trillion.

The accord provides $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The current stop-gap bill funding the federal government runs until Jan. 15.

While the budget agreement sets top-line discretionary spending numbers for FY'14 and FY'15, Congress must still past spending bills to allocate discretionary funds. These will be considered by Congress in early January.

The Senate will be in session next week. The House will be in recess until early January.

Before the House vote Thursday, Boehner was asked how he will deal with debt ceiling legislation that will be needed next spring. He declined to preview his strategy, saying he is dealing with fiscal issues "one at a time" and will tackle debt ceiling legislation "when we get there."

Budget groups have called the Ryan-Murray bill a modest step in providing fiscal stability.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said in a paper that the package "represents an improvement over the status quo," but added it "will not significantly improve the long-term fiscal situation, and would leave debt on an upward path. Though the bill could be a stepping stone for further reforms, much more will have to be done in order to put the budget on a sustainable path."

Bob Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, said in a blog that it remains unclear what will happen next on the fiscal front after the Ryan-Murray accord becomes law.

"The question is whether this is the beginning of a new phase of bipartisan cooperation on deficit reduction or the end of any efforts to reach a grand bargain. At this point, it is impossible to say," Bixby wrote.