After years of fiscal gridlock, Washington may be taking a break from using the federal budget as a political weapon.
But the rare outbreak of bipartisanship may be short-lived.
The Senate early Friday approved a sweeping tax and spending bill, negotiated by the White House and leaders of the House and Senate, that would suspend the cap on federal borrowing and fund the government until 2017. The 65-35 vote, arranged in the middle of the night to head off a threatened filibuster, came after congressional leadership bypassed opponents to strike a deal with the White House.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who helped negotiate the agreement, praised the measure for rejecting tax increases and said that the added spending called for in the measure would be offset by savings elsewhere in the government.
With less than a week's worth of cash, the government was once again on the brink of letting the Treasury default on trillions of dollars in public debt, which would have unleashed turmoil in the financial markets. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had said a default could have come as early as Tuesday. Three years ago, a similar move cost the U.S. its triple-A credit rating, the first such downgrade in 70 years.
The deal, announced Monday, suspends the limit on the government's borrowing authority, now maxed out at $18.1 trillion. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 also provides some $80 billion in new spending on defense and discretionary programs, makes changes to Social Security and Medicare and raises some revenues through the sale of broadcast spectrum and some of the government's crude oil stockpiles.