The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved a compromise two-year budget bill, a measure that had already passed the House of Representatives and now must only be signed by President Barack Obama to become law.
The bill, which passed the Senate by a vote of 64-36 and received the support of all the body’s Democrats and nine Republicans, sets forth spending limits for next year and 2015 and cancels the $63 billion in automatic spending cuts that were to take effect on Jan. 1.
Obama is scheduled to sign the bill within days, thus putting an end to years of budgetary stalemate and disagreements about savings and fiscal policies.
The preliminary agreement was presented at the beginning of this month by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, the chairman of the lower house’s Budget Committee, and by Democratic Senator Patty Murray, and it was approved by the House last week.
The accord was reached just before Congress was scheduled to break for the holidays, thus avoiding the prospect of another government shutdown in January as had occurred in the first half of October.
The agreement enables the government to pay its bills for the current fiscal year, which began in October, as well as for the next fiscal year, which ends in September 2015.
The plan includes a reduction in the deficit of $23 billion over 10 years without increasing taxes and eliminates $63 billion of the $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that have been under way since March.
Obama must sign the bill before Jan. 15, but he is expected to do so within days.
The new bill significantly reduces the heavy automatic cuts in defense spending, which the Republicans did not want, and leaves almost intact various social programs that the Democrats did not want to see affected.
In addition, it avoids a hike in taxes, which Republicans have opposed en masse, creates more income via an increase in airport duties and cuts benefits to government officials and veterans.
The level of discretionary spending comes to rest midway between what Democrats had wanted - $1.058 trillion - and what Republicans were demanding - $967 billion - specifically at $1.012 trillion for fiscal year 2014, rising slightly to $1.014 trillion in fiscal year 2015.