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U.S. Senate Passes Budget Deal, Sent to President


October 31, 2015
Saturday PM

(SitNews) - Less than five days after it was introduced, the United States Senate passed the 144-page, two-year budget deal that suspends the debt limit until March 2017 and raises spending caps giving final approval to a large fiscal package that would prevent a U.S. default next week and lower the risk of a government shutdown in December.

The Senate approved the budget deal after a procedural vote early Friday morning which passed, 63-35. Thirty-five Republican senators opposed the deal, though it was not enough to stop the bill from heading to President Obama’s desk. The Senate gave final approval to a large fiscal package that would prevent a U.S. default next week and lower the risk of a government shutdown in December.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said, “I voted against this bill for a number of reasons. It spends too much on growing federal agencies like the EPA, IRS and the Department of the Interior, and spends too little on our nation’s defense and the brave young men and women who serve in our military. It also does nothing to grow the economy – which grew at an anemic 1.5% rate last quarter. Lastly, the bill is structured such that all spending will be up front, with promised savings in the future. Because of this, it will likely bring our national debt to over $20 trillion in the next two years. All of this puts our kids' and grandkids’ futures at risk.”

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK) said she "reluctantly voted in favor of this bill". In a prepared statement Murkowski said, “While the Budget Act is an imperfect plan, it does prevent a government shutdown and the very real impact that would have on Alaskans. I reluctantly voted in favor of this bill because it provides relief from the financial brinkmanship that Alaskans have, unfortunately, become all too used to seeing from Washington. In less than a week, our nation’s treasury would be unable to pay its bills without this deal. Defaulting on our obligations is something I simply cannot accept."

“For the first time in years we are addressing much needed entitlement reforms, making positive changes to Medicare and Social Security. This is spending that simply cannot be allowed to continue unchecked," said Murkowski.

“Since enactment of the Budget Control Act in 2011, the Armed Services have been distracted by persistent threat of sequestration. This agreement provides desperately needed stability to our military leaders, making it possible for the Armed Forces to confidently move forward with critical projects like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Missile Defense Agency’s Long Range Discrimination Radar and makes the investments needed to improve combat readiness," said Murkowski.

Murkowski further stated, “I have consistently maintained the position that proceeds from the sale of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) should be directed toward improving our nation’s energy security. To that extent, I am pleased to see that the budget agreement directs $2 billion toward the repair and improvement of the SPR itself. "

“While there is a real limit to the amount of oil we can sell from the SPR, the language in the budget deal protects our ability to meet our international obligations, but we need to be vigilant that the SPR not drop below the level that would endanger our energy security," said Murkowski.

“Through an appropriations process that is now more clearly defined, we have the ability to help direct where funds will be spent and keep downward pressure on spending,” she said.

The budget deal, the result of weeks of closed-door negotiations between McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, former House Speaker John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, passed the House of Representatives late Wednesday with a vote of 266 to 167.

Alaska Congressman Don Young (R) voted against H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, passed in the House to suspend the federal debt limit until March 2017.

In a prepared statement U.S. Representative Young said, “Like many of my colleagues, I have concerns with a carte blanche suspension of the nation’s debt limit and the speculative offsets proposed to pay for this plan, including a sell-off of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. While I believe defaulting on our debt is both irresponsible and reckless, I also believe as a nation we must not give up on addressing federal spending and the leading causes of our spiraling debt.”

The two-year budget compromise that was approved by the U.S. Senate and sent to President Barack Obama on Friday (Oct. 30) also includes several changes to the Social Security disability income program, according to the head of the union representing federal disability case administrative law judges. It provides funding that officials say is necessary to offer full benefits to disabled people for at least the next three years and money to hire enough judges to clear a backlog of thousands of disability appeals, and it creates more federal-state disability investigative teams, expanding their use to all 50 states by 2022.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. Although administered by the Social Security Administration, SSI is funded from the U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust fund.

The budget deal also closes the Social Security loophole known as "file and suspend". This means some couples will be getting less from Social Security than they expected due to a change in the way you can claim your benefits. The rule change goes into effect for new retirees starting in six months. It eliminates a claiming strategy known as "file and suspend." It will take away up to four years of spousal benefits that some people claim before filing for their own benefits. This could amount to thousands of dollars in Social Security benefits. According to the Social Security Administration, if you and your current spouse are full retirement age, one of you can apply for retirement benefits now and have the payments suspended, while the other applies only for spouse's benefits. This strategy allows both of you to delay receiving retirement benefits on your own records so you can get delayed retirement credits.


On the Web:

Section by Section: Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015


Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Office of U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski

Office of U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan

Congressman Don Young

U.S. Congress

Social Security Administration


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