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November 1, 2015

Congress Passes Budget, Debt Limit Deal, But Significant Work Remains

In one of his last acts as Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) ushered through a two-year budget deal that increases federal spending over budget caps passed two years ago and that raises the statutory debt limit. (The federal government was set to reach its previous limit in early November.) 

The U.S. House passed the bill, H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, on Wednesday on a bipartisan 266 to 167 vote. The Senate passed the legislation on a bipartisan 64 to 35 vote very early Friday morning. 

H.R. 1314 increases both defense and nondefense spending while cutting certain areas of entitlement spending, including Medicare and Social Security. The $80 billion spending increase will be divided evenly between defense and nondefense spending. The deal also suspends the debt ceiling until March 15, 2017. At that point, the limit will be increased by however much was borrowed over that time frame. 

While the deal ensures there will not be a federal government shutdown this fall, and that the United States will not default on its debt obligations, Congress still faces several must-pass bills before it leaves for the holiday season. It must deal with legislation to extend more than 50 expiring tax provisions and with another short-term highway bill that expires on Nov. 20.