Obama signs budget agreement - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Obama signs budget agreement


WASHINGTON (NBC News) -- President Barack Obama signed a long-awaited budget agreement and a major defense spending bill into law on Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii.

A week after the Senate offered its approval to a modest, bipartisan budget measure meant to stabilize government funding through late 2015, the president — as expected — signed the fiscal framework into law.

"All told, it's a good first step away from the shortsighted, crisis-driven decision-making that has only served to act as a drag on our economy," the president said of the measure at the time of its passage.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., thanks Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for coming to an agreement on a budget.

The budget agreement raises spending slightly above current levels through a combination of reforms and new, non-tax revenue. It leaves the larger issues of taxes and entitlement reforms untouched, but represents a breakthrough in restoring continuity to government funding.

The Senate approved the measure, 64-36. The House first voted for the plan, which was authored by Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, Wis., 332-94.

There's more work to be done, though, on fiscal matters: the budget legislation only sets the levels at which spending will sit. Appropriators will have to quibble over the details of how to spend the allotted money. Congress must also wrestle with raising the debt ceiling again, the deadline for which is in mid-February.

Obama also signed into law the defense authorization legislation for next year, a major spending bill that sets military spending and policy for the next year. This year's legislation included provisions to relax some restrictions on transferring detainees of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to foreign countries. Closing Guantanamo had been a top campaign priority of the president's that lawmakers in Congress had effectively blocked.

In a statement following his signing of the bill, the president lauded the increased flexibility but expressed a desire for further action.

"Section 1035 does not, however, eliminate all of the unwarranted limitations on foreign transfers and, in certain circumstances, would violate constitutional separation of powers principles," Obama said. "The executive branch must have the flexibility, among other things, to act swiftly in conducting negotiations with foreign countries regarding the circumstances of detainee transfers."

The president is expected to return to Washington on Jan. 5.

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