U.S. lawmakers are beginning to consider a compromise 2014 spending plan for the national government that would avert another government shutdown, but again postpones major decisions on the country's most prominent long-term financial issues.
Republican and Democratic groups met Wednesday to look at details of the spending plan offered by congressional negotiators as a way to avoid another of the last-minute budget showdowns that have dominated Washington politics in recent years. In October, the government was partially shut down for 16 days before Congress agreed to fund operations through January 15, when the government's spending authority expires again.
The new compromise was crafted after weeks of negotiations between two lawmakers steeped in the details of U.S. government financing, Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, his party's defeated 2012 vice presidential candidate.
Their proposal would set the government's spending level at slightly more than $1 trillion annually for both 2014 and 2015. It is a package that would allow for more spending than Congress originally called for in the next two years, but also cut some planned spending over the next decade.
The compromise, however, would only marginally cut the country's still-growing, long-term debt of more than $17 trillion. It also does not reform the country's complex tax code or projected spending on health care and pensions for older Americans.
Some conservative Republican lawmakers immediately attacked the deal because it would not cut federal spending as much as they would like. Liberal Democrats criticized it because the package does not renew unemployment compensation for long-term jobless workers that expires at the end of the month.
House Speaker John Boehner, leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, denounced conservative political groups who opposed the deal before it was publicly disclosed.
"They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous. Listen, if you're for more deficit reduction, you're for this agreement."
Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democratic minority in the House, said her colleagues are taking a careful look at the details of the compromise, but would have preferred a bigger spending package.
"Members will make their own decisions as to where we go with this. Again, we would have preferred something quite different, but we do recognize the value of coming to a decision so that we can go forward with some clarity on other legislation that we want to see."
U.S. President Barack Obama called the compromise "a good first step" because it would replace mandatory spending cuts that he said have "served as a mindless drag on our economy over the last year."
Congress is expected to vote on the proposal in the coming days.