December 11, 2013

Bipartisan negotiators reach modest federal budget pact

The deal would only cut about $20 billion from the nation’s $17 trillion debt, but could help avoid another government shutdown.

The Associated Press

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click image to enlarge

This Oct. 17, 2013 file photo shows House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., left, and Senate Budget Committee Chair Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Capitol Hill in Washington. Bipartisan budget negotiators are working toward a modest budget agreement to replace tens of billions of dollars in spending cuts this year and next with longer-term savings and revenue from increased fees. Ryan and Murray are hopeful of striking an agreement as early as Tuesday afternoon.

AP Photo/Scott Applewhits

Reid also wants the Senate to confirm three other major Obama nominees.

They are U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins, who with Pillard would fill the two remaining D.C. circuit vacancies; Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve and Johnson.

All are expected to win approval.

Millett works in the Supreme Court practice at Akin Gump, one of the capital's largest law firms. A Harvard Law School graduate, she served as an assistant to the solicitor general under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and has argued 32 cases before the Supreme Court.

Two Republicans joined Democrats in confirming her Tuesday: Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

Obama praised Millett's confirmation, saying in a statement, "I'm confident she will serve with distinction on the federal bench."

Watt has been a major target of Republicans, who say he is not qualified to lead the housing regulatory agency. Democrats say Republicans fear that Watt, a 21-year veteran of the House Financial Services Committee, will be too liberal.

Fannie and Freddie were bailed out by taxpayers in 2008 as both struggled to survive under the weight of mortgage loans that had gone bad. The two companies own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages, worth about $5 trillion.

During the recent financial crisis, the government provided them with taxpayer aid totaling $187 billion. As the housing market has recovered, both have become profitable and have repaid $146 billion.

Members of both political parties want to wind down both Fannie and Freddie in hopes of reducing taxpayers' risks. Republicans generally want federal regulators to force both companies to focus more on profitability, while Democrats want them to make housing loans more affordable for consumers.

Watt would replace Edward DeMarco, appointed by Bush.

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