By Stacy M. Brown

NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent

Following weeks of negotiations and just before Congress reconvened from its holiday recess, key Senate and House members announced their consensus on setting the total spending at nearly $1.66 trillion. The deal aligns with the agreement struck last year between President Joe Biden and then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a deal that faced strong opposition from conservative factions and led to McCarthy’s ouster by MAGA Republicans.

The agreement includes a boost in Pentagon spending to $886.3 billion while keeping nondefense funding unchanged at $772.7 billion. The figure incorporates an additional $69 billion agreed upon through an informal arrangement between McCarthy and the White House. As a compromise, lawmakers would accelerate $10 billion in cuts to I.R.S. enforcement and reclaim $6 billion in unspent COVID funds and other emergency allocations. The agreed framework does not include the additional $14 billion requested by Senate appropriators from Republican and Democratic sides for increased domestic and military spending.

“By securing the $772.7 billion for nondefense discretionary funding, we can protect key domestic priorities like veterans’ benefits, health care, and nutrition assistance from the draconian cuts sought by right-wing extremists,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a joint statement.

Describing it as a “favorable arrangement for Democrats and the nation,” Schumer and Jeffries, stressed the necessity for a bipartisan approach in Congress to “prevent an expensive and disruptive shutdown.”

In a communication to his GOP colleagues, House Speaker Mike Johnson highlighted the Republicans’ achievement in securing spending reductions, particularly the additional money from the I.R.S. He argued that the outcome translates to tangible savings for American taxpayers and genuine reductions in the federal bureaucracy.

Although Johnson hailed the agreement as a favorable spending deal for Republicans, he acknowledged that the final spending levels “may not satisfy everyone and do not achieve as much spending reduction as many would prefer.”

Biden acknowledged that the deal “offers a pathway” to fund the government without significant cuts. He urged Congressional Republicans to fulfill their responsibilities, cease government shutdown threats, and allocate funding for critical domestic and national security priorities, including his supplemental request for Ukraine and Israel.

With the initial deadline for passing four spending bills on Jan. 19, securing an overall agreement on total funding is just the initial phase of avoiding a shutdown. A subsequent deadline for finalizing the remaining eight appropriations bills, including the one for the Pentagon, looms on Feb. 2.