Senate passes massive budget deal, lifts debt ceiling

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WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a massive budget deal Thursday that would stave off the looming threat of a potential default on US debt and prevent automatic spending cuts to domestic and military funding.

The vote followed days of grumbling from GOP senators about the cost of the package and uncertainty surrounding who will support it.

The agreement, negotiated between congressional leaders and the Trump administration, represents a significant bipartisan compromise, but the vote in the GOP-led Senate had proven slightly tougher than some expected among Republicans.

In floor remarks ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the proposal “a strong deal.”

“In recent weeks, key officials on President Trump’s team engaged in extensive negotiations with Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic House,” the Kentucky Republican said. “Given the exigencies of divided government, we knew that any bipartisan agreement on funding levels would not appear perfect to either side. But the administration negotiated a strong deal.”

On Wednesday, McConnell wouldn’t directly answer if more than half his caucus would vote for the bill, only replying to CNN: “It’s going to pass.”

The deal, which passed the House last week, suspends the debt limit through July 2021 and sets top-line levels for defense and non-defense spending for the next two fiscal years. It establishes a $1.37 trillion budget agreement in the first year, with $738 billion for defense spending and $632 billion in non-defense spending for fiscal year 2020.

Trump encouraged senators to back it in a tweet Thursday morning, telling GOP members in the chamber to “Go for it.”

“Budget Deal is phenomenal for our Great Military, our Vets, and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!” he tweeted. “Two year deal gets us past the Election. Go for it Republicans, there is always plenty of time to CUT!”

It’s up to Trump to now sign the deal, but assuming that happens, it doesn’t stop the government from shutting down at the end of September. It does set the top line budget numbers for two years, end sequestration and raises the debt ceiling for two years.

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