(source: Housing Assistance Council)December 16, 2013 – The House on December 12 approved by a 332-94 vote a bipartisan budget agreement that had been announced earlier in the week. If the Senate also approves H.J. Res. 59, setting an overall budget framework, Congressional appropriators will then move to complete spending bills for the rest of FY 2014. The Agriculture and Transportation-HUD bills appear to be candidates for inclusion in an omnibus wrap-up law. Other more contentious appropriations measures, such the Labor-HHS bill, will likely end up in a year-long continuing resolution for 2014. Senate action is expected during the week of December 16. No spending levels for programs have so far been revealed. The budget agreement, if approved by Congress, would avert deep cuts under sequestration, set top-line budget levels for fiscal 2014 and 2015, and avoid another government shutdown. House and Senate Budget Committee chairs Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled the much anticipated deal before their Dec. 13 deadline. The latest continuing resolution, which ended the October shutdown, expires on January 15. By then appropriators would need to use the new template to craft their 2014 final bills. Presumably most housing programs may be able to avoid further cuts, but that so far is unclear. It was thought that the Murray-Ryan agreement would face opposition, especially in the House. But it passed easily with bipartisan support. Many Democrats are unhappy that the bill will increase federal employee contributions to their pensions and allow an extension of jobless benefits to expire, while Republicans do not like exceeding the budget ceilings set in 2011. The sequestration cap for 2014 had been set at $967 billion for 2014. H.H. Res. 59 boosts that limit to $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015. Also yet to be decided is an extension of the federal government’s borrowing authority, which expires February 7. That may be the next showdown.