EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

National News

November 25, 2013

Prospects brighten for small-scale budget deal

(Continued)

Aides to Murray and Ryan won’t go into details, but their playbook of options is heavily drawn from a roster of so-called non-health mandatory spending that was negotiated at length during the supercommittee talks and an earlier 2011 round of talks led by Vice President Joe Biden and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

Airlines already are lobbying against a proposal to raise $1 billion a year in new revenues by doubling the transportation security fee on nonstop flights from $2.50 to $5. Hospitals oppose cutting federal payments for hospitals that treat low-income people. And the powerful veterans’ lobby is on red alert to oppose cuts in generous medical benefits awarded under the military’s Tricare program.

A leading option is for a deal covering the 2014-2015 appropriations cycles. Fully restoring the automatic cuts for both years would require more than $180 billion. Washington’s K Street lobbying corridor buzzed last week with emails about a tentative framework less than half that size — in the $60-70 billion range. Aides on both sides would not confirm their accuracy.

What appears clear is that even with an agreement, agencies will face a money crunch. The hard-fought 2011 budget accord set a cap of $1.058 trillion on day-to-day agency budgets for the 2014 budget year that began Oct. 1. With the automatic spending cuts, the comparable cap for 2013 dropped to $988 billion and would fall further to $967 billion — if an agreement isn’t reached before the Jan. 15 expiration of a temporary funding bill that ended the 16-day partial shutdown of the government last month.

Splitting the difference — which may be ambitious given the nature of what’s under consideration -- would mean non-war, non-emergency spending of about $1.012 trillion for agency operations. By contrast, non-war, non-emergency spending in 2012 registered $1.043 trillion.

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