Budget Deal Clears Way for Defense Bill

October 30, 2015

Congress has acted to avert both a government shutdown and a federal default with a budget deal that lifts spending caps and suspends the national debt ceiling.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 increases spending caps for defense and non-defense spending by a total of $80 billion for two years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the bill adds more than $4 billion in savings, and eases the projected 52 percent premium hike for nearly one-third of Medicare beneficiaries

Congress only had until Nov. 3 to address the debt ceiling before the government ran out of money to pay its bills.

That threat disappeared at 3 A.M. Friday morning when the Senate followed the House in voting to approve the budget deal. It now goes to the White House for signature.

Legislators now have about six weeks to pass an appropriations bill and avoid a government shutdown. But the main appropriations sticking point was removed when legislators voted to approve the total budget amount.

Further, the agreement on new defense spending caps means lawmakers can move forward with an amended FY2016 Defense Authorization Act, which the president had vetoed over budget concerns. 

The primary challenge is that, despite all the technical readjustments to budget caps, the new deal means a $5 billion net reduction in spending authority from the previously approved defense bill. 

House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders are now huddling to decide how to cut that amount from the defense budget. At this point, it’s unclear whether that could involve any further cuts to personnel or benefit programs.

MOAA will keep you posted, as the decisions could come as early as next week.

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