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United States

US legislators reach bipartisan budget agreement

US congressional negotiators have reached a bipartisan budget agreement. The deal would ease the automatic across-the-board spending cuts and help avoid budget clashes for the next year or two.

Congress in landmark budget deal

In a rare show of bipartisanship, congressional negotiators reached a modest US budget agreement Tuesday in Washington.

The proposal would ease the automatic across-the-board spending cuts, known as the sequester, by $63 billion, while making $85 billion in cuts elsewhere and reducing the deficit by $23 billion.

The announcement of the budget deal came in the form of a statement from two negotiators, Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat, and Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican.

Both chair the budget committees in the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-led House of Representatives.

Ryan said the deal "reduces the deficit by $23 billion and it does not raise taxes. It cuts spending in a smarter way."

Murray said the 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." Sequestration is Washington budget-speak for across-the-board automatic spending cuts.

Murray said that hopefully the agreement can "rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work."

Failure to reach an agreement on a budget by October 1 caused much of the US government to shut down for 16 days, halting services, fueling economic uncertainty and angering citizens. The fight centered on Republican attempts to block funding for President Barack Obama's overhaul to the American health care system.

With the threat of the first-ever federal default, Republicans relented and agreed to a short-term deal to fund the federal government.

The new budget must still be passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate before going to the White House for President Barack Obama's signature. Voting is expected in both houses by the end of the week.

The White House issued a statement from President Obama praising the deal as a "good first step." Obama urged lawmakers to "actually pass a budget based on this agreement so I can sign it into law and our economy can continue growing and creating jobs without more Washington headwinds."

The agreement holds the potential for avoiding budget clashes for the next year or two.

hc/lw (Reuters, AP, AFP)

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