Boehner, Reid strike deal to lift the debt ceiling

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Thursday evening struck a deal to lift the debt ceiling and push government spending through the year, despite a fractious minority party angry about changes it opposes to key domestic spending programs.

House and Senate leaders announced the agreement in a joint statement, which the Capitol News Service reported. Both Democrats and Republicans voted in favor of raising the debt ceiling, as well as congressional spending bills, it said.

“As we approach an election year, this agreement is an important first step in our bipartisan, bicameral compromise negotiations,” Boehner and Reid said in the statement. “It will provide certainty for our economy, and keep the full faith and credit of the United States in place. It is time to clear away the cobwebs, pass these bills through Congress, and begin to get our fiscal house in order.”

The Boehner-Reid agreement paves the way for the House and Senate to pass remaining spending bills through the end of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

A House Republican leadership aide said before the Boehner-Reid announcement that a vote would take place Thursday, but that some Democrats in the House wanted more assurances that the White House would not push for a default.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the agreement had not been finalized. Carney said the administration remains committed to finding more deficit reduction as part of a comprehensive budget deal that could avoid a default. But he said, “What we will not compromise on is the good faith of the United States Treasury Department in honoring its obligations.”

Wendy Kaufman of the left-leaning advocacy group Citizen Action said the budget deal is a “welcome step” to get Congress’ attention, but that “it’s too little, too late.”

“Now, the country has less time to live without budget certainty than any other developed nation,” Kaufman said. “The budget agreement still allows the richest members of our society to pay less in taxes than almost every other citizen. It still cuts benefits for families without children, poor people and women. It doesn’t do anything to address the biggest drivers of our deficit and spiraling debt, like corporate giveaways and tax breaks for the wealthy.”

While details of the Boehner-Reid agreement have not been announced, congressional Democratic leaders have been calling for raising the debt ceiling to include more immediate deficit reduction steps. The debt ceiling is currently at $16.4 trillion, and is expected to increase by that amount before the month is out. The Treasury Department has said it does not have enough money to pay all the government’s bills unless Congress raises the ceiling by May 16.

The details of the deal are expected to be released this morning, congressional sources say.

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