SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 11, 2013

Bipartisan negotiators seek modest budget pact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican and Democratic negotiators reached out for a budget agreement yesterday to reduce automatic spending cuts aimed at programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon, risking a backlash from liberals and conservatives that highlighted the difficulty of compromise within divided government.

Officials said that under the emerging agreement, an estimated $65 billion in automatic spending cuts would be restored through the end of the next budget year, which runs to Sept. 30, 2015.

The increases would be offset by a variety of spending reductions and increased fees elsewhere in the budget totaling about $85 billion over a decade, enough for a largely symbolic $20 billion reduction in the nation’s $17 trillion debt.

Among them is a requirement for federal workers to make larger contributions to their own pensions, as well as an increase in a federal security fee that would add $5 to the cost of a typical round-trip flight.

“We’re not there yet but we are working out details and I’m hopeful,” Sen. Patty Murray told reporters at midday as she walked into a meeting with fellow Senate Democrats. The Washington lawmaker, who is is her party’s negotiator in talks with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said she hoped to be able to announce an agreement by day’s end.

The officials who described the deal under discussion did so on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to speak on the record.

The same was not true of conservative organizations, who attacked the proposal as a betrayal of a hard-won 2011 agreement that reduced government spending and is counted as among the main accomplishments of tea party-aligned Republicans who came to power earlier the same year in the House.

Americans for Prosperity issued a midmorning statement saying that GOP lawmakers should uphold current spending levels. Otherwise, the group said, “Congressional Republicans are joining liberal Democrats in breaking their word to the American people to finally begin reining in government overspending that has left us over $17 trillion in debt.”

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