Obama Signs Bipartisan Budget Easing $63 Billion in Cuts

President Barack Obama signed into law a bipartisan federal budget that will ease $63 billion in spending cuts for the next two years, along with a measure that sets military policy for 2014.

The $1.01 trillion spending plan Obama signed yesterday is projected to cut the federal government’s deficit by $23 billion over 10 years. The Pentagon law authorizes a $526.8 billion ceiling for military spending and includes pay raises for troops.

Neither party liked the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration, which in January would have pinched Pentagon spending as well as domestic programs. Neither party could find a way to erase them all in the compromise, which does little to tackle the nation’s $17 trillion debt.

Even as lawmakers hailed the deal reached this month by Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Representative Paul Ryan, their plan only sets spending priorities. Lawmakers must still negotiate how money is spent by the agencies.

“It’s probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship,” Obama said during a Dec. 20 press conference after the budget bill had cleared Congress. “But it’s also fair to say that we’re not condemned to endless gridlock.”

Lawmakers will “put together bills that can reflect the best we can do under the circumstances,” Murray, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said after the Senate on Dec. 18 passed the budget 64-36. The House voted for the plan 332-94 on Dec. 12.

The additional spending measure has to be passed and signed into law by Jan. 15, when current authority lapses, to avert a second government shutdown. A stalemate over fiscal issues caused a 16-day shutdown in October.

Guantanamo Issue

Obama, who is vacationing with his family in Hawaii, said in a separate statement on the defense authorization law that he was encouraged Congress provided additional flexibility in transferring prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay prison to other nations. He faulted lawmakers for leaving some restrictions in place, making it harder to close the facility operated at a U.S. naval base in Cuba.

“The detention facility at Guantanamo continues to impose significant costs on the American people,” Obama said in a statement. “I am encouraged that this act provides the executive greater flexibility to transfer Guantanamo detainees abroad, and look forward to working with the Congress to take the additional steps needed to close the facility.”

The defense policy measure for the current fiscal year revamps how the U.S. military handles sexual-assault cases while approving the Pentagon’s request for F-35 fighters and combat ships.

The measure sets military policy and spending targets for fiscal 2014, which started Oct. 1. The law authorizes sets aside $80.7 billion for overseas operations led by the war in Afghanistan.

Under the law, the Pentagon can buy the 29 F-35 jets it requested. The fighter, made by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp., is the military’s costliest weapons program, at a projected price of $391.2 billion for a fleet of 2,443 aircraft.

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