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US Senate passes budget bill to prevent govt. shutdown

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Senate has approved a 2-year budget plan aimed at averting a government shutdown.

The US Senate has passed a bipartisan, two-year budget deal that increases federal spending and reduces the threat of a government shutdown through the end of Barack Obama's presidency.

The Senate passed the bill early Friday, two days after the House of Representatives approved it on Wednesday. The deal is now waiting for Obama’s signature, according to AFP.

The measure, which was passed in a 64-35 vote late into the night, suspends the statutory federal borrowing cap until mid-March 2017, and averts a damaging default.

It increases spending in the fiscal year of 2016 by $50 billion which is split about equally between defense and domestic programs. It allows for another $30 billion increase in 2017.

The plan also adds $31 billion into an emergency war fund for the Pentagon, made possible through modifying entitlement programs including Social Security.

The new budget sets the 2016 discretionary spending at $1.067 trillion, about half of which is allocated to military spending. In 2017, the figure would slightly rise to $1.071 trillion.

The deal is the result of weeks of secret negotiations between the White House and then-House speaker John Boehner who sought to clear the decks of any fiscal crises before stepping down and handing the gavel to his successor.

Boehner stepped down Thursday and is due to be replaced by Representative Paul Ryan who was elected the new speaker of the House. The bill marks Boehner's final legislative achievement.

There was a sense of urgency to the Senate vote, which occurred hours before sunrise Friday.

The Republican-controlled Congress needs to raise the federal borrowing limit by November 3, or risk a default, that is the failure or refusal of the government of a sovereign state to pay back its debt in full.

Senate minority leader Harry Reid hailed the lawmakers for coming together to pass the bill, which he said "will help prevent a government shutdown and avoid a disastrous default on our nation's obligations."

Congress now needs to decide how the funds will be divided among a large number of federal programs by December 11, when a stopgap spending measure expires.


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