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A CHRISTMAS MIRACLE: Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Agreement to Restart Appropriations Work, Avoid Another Government Shutdown in January

“This agreement [is] a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work,” said Senator Patty Murray.

On December 10, Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced a deal to restart work on the twelve Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 appropriations bills that have been held hostage by partisan gridlock. The agreement sets overall spending levels for FY 2014, which began on October 1, and FY 2015, while also providing significant relief from the sequester cuts that have reduced funding for a broad array of federal programs, including education programs Impact Aid and Head Start.

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

“We are generally pleased,” Joel Packer, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding, told Inside Higher Ed. “While not what we ideally hoped for, which was a complete replacement of the entire sequester for the remaining eight years, this deal does stop the cuts [and provides] a funding level that stops moving investments in education backward but instead turns the corner so we can start catching up to where we were.”

The agreement has already received approval from the House, which passed the measure by a vote of 332 to 94 on December 12. The Senate will consider the measure later this week.

After the House vote, Ryan released a statement thanking his colleagues from both political parties for supporting the measure.

“It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes,” Ryan said. “And it does so by cutting spending in a smarter way. It doesn’t go as far as I’d like, but it’s a firm step in the right direction. This agreement will stop Washington’s lurch from crisis to crisis. It will bring stability to the budget process and show both parties can work together.”

Should the Senate pass the measure, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) will begin negotiations on how to divide the $1.012 trillion among the twelve appropriations bills. After those decisions are made, House and Senate appropriators will begin writing the individual spending bills over the holiday recess.

Floor action on those bills, which could be combined into a single omnibus bill or a series of mini-omnibus bills, would most likely occur in early January after both chambers return from the holiday recess, but they would need to be completed before January 15, the expiration date of the continuing resolution that is currently funding the government. Only after those bills are passed will educators and advocates have a clear understanding of funding levels for education programs in FY 2014.

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