July 31, 2021

$2 Trillion Budget Passes Congress

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The Senate on Wednesday approved a two-year budget deal, sending it to President Obama’s desk and staving off the threat of a partial government shutdown.

The bill cleared the Senate on a 64-36 vote. It passed despite the objections of Republican senators to a provision that cuts billions from military retiree benefits.

“It’s not correct, and it should not happen,” Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., said of the cuts to veterans.

The majority of lawmakers, though, were eager to avoid another budget brawl two months after the last showdown. The bill earlier passed the House on a strong bipartisan vote.

The bill would set in place a spending plan for the next two years, while undoing some of the sequester spending cuts — to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives. Unclear is how lawmakers will address a looming deadline, early next year, to raise the debt ceiling.

The budget measure approved Wednesday would restore $45 billion, half the amount scheduled to be automatically cut from the 2014 operating budgets of the Pentagon and some domestic agencies, lifting them above $1 trillion. An additional $18 billion for 2015 would provide enough relief to essentially freeze spending at those levels for the year.

The provision cutting the inflation increases of pensions for military retirees under the age of 62 was perhaps the most unpopular. Members of the military are eligible to retire after 20 years at half pay. The provision was included in the bill at the direction of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Sessions tried, late Tuesday, to push an amendment blocking those cuts, but was stymied by Democrats on the floor.

However, top Democrats said Wednesday they would revisit the change in military pensions before it takes effect in two years. Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., who negotiated the bill with Ryan, said lawmakers would at least reverse the impact on disabled retirees — calling their inclusion a mistake.

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