President Obama Signs Budget, Defense Bills

by Scott Neuman

December 26, 2013 4:50 PM

President Obama speaks to current and retired members of the U.S. military and their families as they eat a Christmas Day meal in the Anderson Hall mess hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Wednesday.President Obama speaks to current and retired members of the U.S. military and their families as they eat a Christmas Day meal in the Anderson Hall mess hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii on Wednesday.

Getty Images

President Obama on Thursday signed the bipartisan budget bill agreed upon earlier this month, setting the stage for an easing of mandatory spending cuts over the next two years.

The , following its passage in the Republican-dominated House.

The president also signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2014.

As The Associated Press reports:

“Obama signed the bill Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii. The deal reduces across-the-board cuts already scheduled to take effect, restoring about $63 billion over two years. It includes a projected $85 billion in other savings. Continue reading “President Obama Signs Budget, Defense Bills”

‘Something For Everyone To Dislike’ In Budget Deal

by Mark Memmott

December 11, 2013 7:00 AM
 Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., crafted the budget deal.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash., and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., crafted the budget deal.  T.J. Kirkpatrick/Getty Images

The reviews are coming in for crafted by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and , the package seems to have “something for everyone to dislike.”

“It won’t cut federal spending or shrink the national debt, so conservative Republicans don’t like it,” the Times says, and “it won’t restore much money for domestic programs or extend unemployment insurance, so Democrats don’t like it either. Its main virtue is that it will spare members of Congress from worrying about a government shutdown during their long Christmas break.”

Basically, adds the Washington Post, “the deal denies both Republicans and Democrats what they want most. Republicans didn’t get any changes to Medicare and Social Security — much less any structural ones. Democrats didn’t get any new taxes.”

On Morning Edition, NPR’s Tamara Keith summed up the agreement this way:

“The deal … would set the federal budget at just about $1 trillion this year and next. It would replace a big chunk of the sequester cuts with other trims and increased fees. And that’s pretty much it.”

In other words, Tamara said, Murray and Ryan went “small” instead of going for a “grand bargain.”

Of course, if one side had come out of the Ryan-Murray negotiations claiming victory, that might have doomed the plan’s chances for passage by both the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate. On the question of whether the agreement will be OK’d by both chambers, the National Journal writes that “Ryan may face the most immediate challenge, meeting behind closed doors Wednesday morning to explain the agreement to skeptical House conservatives.”

It adds, though, that:

“Ryan, whom conservatives describe as the most highly respected member of the House GOP when it comes to fiscal matters, seems up to the task of selling the deal. He repeatedly framed the agreement as ‘conservative’ on Tuesday, emphasizing at the outset: ‘It reduces the deficit without raising taxes.’ …

“At one point, Ryan seemed to speak directly to his House GOP colleagues, perhaps previewing the pitch he’ll make to them at Wednesday morning’s conference meeting.

” ‘As a conservative, I think this is a step in the right direction,’ Ryan said. ‘What am I getting out of this? I’m getting more deficit reduction. The deficit will go down more by passing this than if we did nothing. That’s point No. 1. Point No. 2 is, there are no tax increases here. Point No. 3: We’re finally starting to deal with autopilot spending, that mandatory spending that has not been addressed by Congress for years.’ ”

How is the deal playing in other news outlets? Here’s a sampling of headlines:

— “Conservative groups sound alarm over tentative budget deal.” (Fox News)

— “Conservatives balk at budget deal.” (Politico)

— “A Least Bad Budget Deal.” (Wall Street Journal editorial)

— “U.S. budget deal could usher in new era of cooperation.” (Reuters)

— “U.S. budget deal: What does it ad up to?” (The Financial Times)

Update at 8:30 a.m. ET. It’s Called Compromise, Murray Says:

She and Ryan agreed “it was important for us to put together certainty for this country [so] we worked hard to get a two-year deal,” Murray told Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep this hour..

“Neither one of us got everything we wanted and we were able to keep the other person from getting some of the big things they wanted,” Murray added, “and that’s called compromise.”

 

U.S. Budget Deficit Falls Under $1 Trillion; Lowest Since 2008

by Bill Chappell

October 30, 2013 6:52 PM

The U.S. government ran a deficit of $680 billion in the financial year that ended last month — the first time since 2008 that the annual shortfall has been under $1 trillion. It represents a fall from $1.09 trillion in 2012, but as the AP reports, “It’s still the fifth-largest deficit of all time.”

The Treasury Department announced the news along with the White House budget office Wednesday.

“Under President Obama, the nation’s deficit has fallen for the past four years,” Treasury Secretary Lew said. “It is now less than half of what it was when the president took office.” Continue reading “U.S. Budget Deficit Falls Under $1 Trillion; Lowest Since 2008”

The Shutdown’s Squeeze On Science And Health

by NPR Staff October 01, 2013 6:41 PM

This image was posted by NASA to the agency's official Instagram account.This image was to the agency’s official Instagram account.

NASA/Getty Images

In addition to shutdowns of (including Alcatraz Island and Yosemite) and the supplemental nutrition program for , the mandatory furloughs are affecting a science and health agencies. Here’s a snapshot:


The “most painful consequence [of the shutdown for National Institutes of Health] is for the clinical center, the largest research hospital in the world” says NIH Director Francis Collins. Many of the hospital’s patients have cancer, a rare genetic disease or a serious infection that hasn’t been relieved elsewhere, Collins says. But Tuesday NIH had to close its doors to new patients. “How would you feel as a parent of a child with cancer,” Collins asks, “hoping that somehow NIH and its clinical center might provide some rescue from a very difficult situation, to hear that, frankly, you can’t come, because the government won’t be able to stay open.”

More specifically at the NIH clinical center:

  • No new studies will be started. Four had been slated to begin this week, but won’t if the shutdown continues.
  • No new patients will be enrolled in any of the 1,437 studies now underway. Roughly 500of those are studying new drugs and devices, and of those 255 are looking at cancer treatments for adults and children.
  • The hospital’s reduced staff will continue to care for existing patients, but new patients will not be admitted unless the NIH Clinical Center’s director deems it medically necessary.

Meanwhile, workers will show up to feed and care for animals in NIH labs, but basic research conducted by NIH scientists there will stop. Continue reading “The Shutdown’s Squeeze On Science And Health”

Shutdown Solution? There’s None To Be Seen Just Yet

by Mark Memmot  October 02, 2013 7:00 AM

The Lincoln Memorial is officially closed. National parks and monuments are among the parts of the federal government affected by the shutdown.

Dennis Brack /LandovThe Lincoln Memorial is officially closed. National parks and monuments are among the parts of the federal government affected by the shutdown.

We said it Tuesday: “no end in sight.”

The story’s the same on Wednesday.

Pardon us for being repetitive, but there’s no end in sight to the partial shutdown of the Federal government.

There isn’t even a glint of solution somewhere off on the horizon, NPR’s Mara Liasson says. Continue reading “Shutdown Solution? There’s None To Be Seen Just Yet”