“It’s probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship,” said President Barack Obama at a December 20 news conference, “but it’s also fair to say that we’re not condemned to endless gridlock.”
Obama was speaking about a bipartisan budget compromise that was proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) earlier in the month, a deal that made a fairly speedy trek through both houses of Congress. The president signed the measure into law on Thursday, effectively ending, for the time being, the destructive cycle of stopgap spending measures that have characterized fiscal policy over the past few years.
By most measures, the new deal is modest. The provisions are so bland that they don’t offend most lawmakers, but they also don’t excite anyone, either. The deal provides for $63 billion worth of relief from the sequester over two years ($45 billion in fiscal 2014 and $18 billion in fiscal 2015), split evenly between military and domestic programs. This is something that appeals to Democrats and that many Republicans can tolerate.
The deal is seasoned with between $20 billion and $23 billion in additional deficit reduction spread over 10 years and extends a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers. The federal fiscal 2014 discretionary spending level would be set at $1.012 trillion and at $1.014 trillion for fiscal 2015.