Budget Deal to Avert Shutdown Approved

     WASHINGTON (CN) – In the early morning hours Friday, the Senate approved a two-year bipartisan budget deal that raises defense and domestic spending, increases the debt limit and reforms parts of Social Security.
     The agreement, struck between congressional leadership and the White House, was announced Monday night and passed the House on Wednesday.
     The agreement passed the Senate 64-35 in a session that began just after midnight Friday, pushing off the specter of a default or government shutdown for two years.
     “Today’s vote is a victory for bipartisanship and for the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement. “Together, Democrats and Republicans have proven that, when partisan agendas are set aside, we can find common ground for the common good. The bipartisan budget agreement passed today will help prevent a government shutdown and avoid a disastrous default on our nation’s obligations. It also will prevent a drastic cut to Social Security disability benefits, and a massive increase in Medicare premiums.”
     Democrats have claimed victory on the agreement because it ends sequester cuts and contains what party leadership has insisted is a clean increase in the debt ceiling. Republicans do the same, praising the entitlement reforms contained in the agreement and the lack of tax hikes.
     “This agreement isn’t perfect,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the floor Thursday morning. “I share some concerns other colleagues have raised. But here’s the bottom line: This is a fully offset agreement that rejects tax hikes, secures long-term savings through entitlement reforms, and provides increased support for our military – at a time when we confront threats in multiple theaters.”
     Congress faced an early November deadline to raise the debt ceiling and has been operating under a continuing resolution that was set to expire in December.
     Republican presidential candidates Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz criticized the deal in the days leading up to the vote. Cruz spoke against on the floor for more than two and a half hours Thursday night about the budget’s irresponsible spending, yielding the floor at 10:06 pm.
     “The bill that we are here to vote on is both shockingly bad on the merits, and it is also a manifestation of the bipartisan corruption that suffuses Washington D.C.,” Cruz said in his speech.
     On the eve to his election as House speaker, Paul spoke out against the budget during Wednesday’s Republican debate, arguing it is fiscally irresponsible and that the process of raising the debt ceiling should be used to force budgetary reforms.
     “No, I oppose it because you’re taking money from the entitlement and then spending it immediately on other items,” Paul said when asked if he opposed the deal because it didn’t cut deeply enough into entitlement programs. “That’s what they’re doing. They’re taking money from Social Security and they’re going to spend it on the military and they’re going to spend it on domestic spending.”
     President Barack Obama, who Reid has credited with playing a major role in the agreement, will need to sign the bill for the deal to go into effect.

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