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Politics

Congressional negotiators reach budget deal

Measure draws criticism from conservatives

Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray announced the tentative budget agreement.

J.S.Applewhite/Associated Press

Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray announced the tentative budget agreement.

WASHINGTON — House and Senate budget negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a budget deal that would raise military and domestic spending over the next two years, shifting the pain of across-the-board cuts to other programs over the coming decade and raising fees on airline tickets to pay for airport security.

The deal, while modest in scope, amounts to a cease-fire in the budget wars that have debilitated Washington since 2011 and gives lawmakers breathing room to try to address the real drivers of federal spending — health care and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security — and to reshape the tax code.

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For a Capitol used to paralyzing partisan gridlock, the accord between Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin and chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington and chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, was a reminder that even fierce political combatants can find common ground. Ryan praised the deal in the most elementary terms as a way to “get our government functioning at its very basic levels.”

Both negotiators promised an end to uncertainty and the lurching from crisis to crisis, at least for a year.

The deal drew praise from House Republican leaders, who are likely to put it to a vote by Thursday.

“While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said in a statement.

President Obama also weighed in.

“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise,” he said. “But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making to get this done.”

The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives who saw it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans. Some excoriated Ryan, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, for rolling back immediate spending cuts in exchange for promised savings that may never materialize.

“We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good-paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American dream,” said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida and a top prospect for a 2016 presidential run.

The agreement eliminates about $63 billion in across-the-board domestic and military cuts while adding $23 billion in deficit reduction by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare through 2022 and 2023, two years beyond the cuts set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Under the agreement, military and domestic spending for the current fiscal year that is under the annual discretion of Congress would rise to $1.012 trillion from the $967 billion level it would hit if spending cuts known as sequestration were imposed next month. Spending would creep up to $1.014 trillion in the 2015 fiscal year.

The figure for this year is about halfway between the $1.058 trillion passed by the Senate this spring and the $967 billion approved by the House.

Military spending would be set at $520.5 billion this fiscal year, while domestic programs would get $491.8 billion. The $63 billion increase during the next two years would be spread evenly between Pentagon and domestic spending, nearly erasing the effect of sequestration on the military.

Domestic programs would fare particularly well because the 2 percent cut to Medicare health providers would be kept in place, alleviating cuts to programs like health research, education and Head Start.

The increase would be paid for in part with higher airline fees that underwrite airport security. Higher contributions from federal workers to their pensions would save about $6 billion. Military pensions would see slower cost of living increases, a $6 billion savings over 10 years. Private companies would pay more into the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp.

States receiving mineral revenue payments will have to help defray the costs of managing the mineral leases, saving $415 million over 10 years.

Deep water, natural gas, and other petroleum research programs would end.

Democrats gave up their demand that the deal extend unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month, but they hope to press for an extension in a separate measure.

For Republican leaders, the deal would erase the threat of another government shutdown Jan. 15, when the stopgap spending measure that reopened the government in October runs out. The government’s statutory borrowing authority will lapse as early as March, however, another potential crisis, but a budget deal allows Republicans to remain singularly focused on the health care law.

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