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Washington Week: Congress to Finish Work on US Budget Deal

Washington Week: Congress to Finish Work on US Budget Deal
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U.S. lawmakers are expected to pass a two-year federal budget this week, ending a contentious and politically-polarized year on a bipartisan note. While Congress is acting on fiscal matters, it has shelved possible new economic sanctions against Iran.

The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the budget blueprint last week, and the Senate is expected to follow suit in coming days, showing that a politically-divided Congress can function, according to Democratic Senator Richard Durbin.

“I am encouraged that members on both sides, House and Senate, Democrats and Republicans, vote for this. Let us move. Let us govern. Let us not shut down this government again. This is an opportunity, and with this opportunity we can have a stronger national defense, a stronger country, and we can save the taxpayers money,” said Durbin.

Once enacted, the bill would give the nation a two-year reprieve from the budget wars that have consumed Congress in recent years. It reduces across-the-board cuts to federal spending and, at the same time pares the deficit, earning the backing of Republicans like Congressman Paul Ryan.

“This is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has done what we are about to do. Here is what the bill does: it reduces the deficit by $23 billion. It does not raise taxes and it cuts spending in a smarter way,” said Ryan.

Meanwhile, a furious lobbying effort by the Obama administration has succeeded in preventing Congress from enacting new sanctions against Iran, at least until next year. Secretary of State John Kerry was one of many U.S. officials who pleaded with lawmakers to give international diplomacy a chance to curb Iran’s nuclear activities.

“We have a chance to address peacefully one of the most pressing national security concerns that the world faces today. I do not want to give Iranians a public excuse to flout the agreement,” said Kerry.

Some Democratic and Republican lawmakers want to boost sanctions to pressure Tehran in upcoming negotiations, arguing that sanctions forced Iran to bargain in the first place. The administration says Congress can always act if talks were to break down.