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Senate passes budget compromise 64-36

NBC Nightly News (12/18, story 5, 0:30, Williams) reported that by a vote of 64-36, the Senate on Wednesday night “passed a budget to fund the Federal government.” Lawmakers hope the measure “will avert another shutdown for at least another two years.”

The Los Angeles Times (12/19, Mascaro) reports that while the “$85-billion package is modest in scope,” it “represents a rare bipartisan achievement for a divided Congress that has spent the past two years engaged in high-stakes standoffs over government budgets.” Under the deal, “spending for 2014 and 2015 will rise by $63 billion, reversing some across-the-board cuts to defense accounts and social programs that only the most conservative lawmakers wanted to keep.”

However, the Washington Post (12/19, Montgomery) says that the measure “does not erase the threat of a government shutdown.” Rather, it “merely sets the parameters of federal spending levels; it leaves work on the details up to the House and Senate appropriations committees.” Meanwhile, “some conservatives are calling for another showdown,” demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. The Post notes that once an omnibus spending package is finalized, lawmakers will begin discussing the “national debt, which stands at $17.2 trillion.” While the debt ceiling has been suspended untilFebruary 7th, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew “has said he will have about a month before he starts running short of cash to pay the nation’s bills.”

USA Today (12/19, Davis) reports that nine GOP senators “sided with all 55 members of the Democratic Conference” to pass the measure which was “one of the final legislative acts in what has otherwise been the most unproductive year on record for Congress.”

The New York Times (12/19, Weisman, Subscription Publication) reports that the Senate vote, which was “far closer than the overwhelming 332-to-94 vote in the House last week,” reflected “the particular politics of the Senate, where a Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, was the budget’s shepherd and where Republicans facing Tea Party challenges next year or positioning themselves for presidential runs in 2016 opted to oppose it.”

Roll Call (12/19, Shiner, Subscription Publication) also reports that the measure lays “the groundwork to avoid government shutdowns over that time period.”

McClatchy (12/19, Lightman) reports that passage of the budget “virtually assures two years of fiscal stability, though it does virtually nothing to reduce the national debt or curb the growth of Medicare, Social Security or other entitlement programs.” McClatchy also notes that it does not “guarantee the government will not shut down again early next year, though that prospect now appears highly unlikely.”

The Hill (12/19, Cox, Wasson) reports that the agreement “falls far short of the ‘grand bargain’ negotiations held” by President Obama and House Speaker Boehner in 2011, “when significant entitlement cuts and tax hikes were on the table.” In addition, it is “well short of the $4 trillion deal that many deficit hawks say is necessary to tame the national debt.” The Hill also notes that it “does little to change the trajectory of federal deficits, which have declined with an improving economy but are slated to expand in the long run as Medicare and Medicaid costs rise higher.”

Bloomberg News (12/19, Hunter, Przybyla) reports that before the vote, Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, who negotiated the agreement with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, said of the agreement, “It is not going to solve every problem but it is a step in the right direction and a dramatic improvement over the status quo. … The American people are sick and tired of the constant crises we see out of Washington.” After the vote, Ryan said, “This vote shows both parties – in both chambers – can find common ground. … This bill is only a small step. We need to do a lot more. But it’s a small step in the right direction.”

The Wall Street Journal (12/19, Hook, Subscription Publication), Politico (12/19, Kim), the AP (12/19, Espo), theWashington Post (12/19, Klein) “WonkBlog” and other media sources also covered the story.

Bernanke: Signs Of Cooperation On Budget Deal Could Help Economy. The Wall Street Journal (12/19, Morath, Sparshott) reports that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke welcomed the budget agreement, saying the indications of cooperation in Congress could help increase confidence in the economy. Bernanke said, “Relative to where we were in September and October, it certainly is nice there has been a bipartisan deal,” adding, “Even if the outcomes are small, as this one was, it’s a good thing that they are working cooperatively and making some progress.”

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