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Originally published Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 4:06 PM

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Editorial: A federal budget deal, and no drama

Washington’s U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Wisconsin’s U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan have a budget deal for Congress that is grounded in political and financial reality.

Seattle Times Editorial

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DRAIN away the ideological hyperbole from each end of the political spectrum, and factor in the public’s unvarnished contempt for Congress, and the way is cleared for a federal budget deal.

Credit U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and heavy staff support with crafting a budget likely to survive votes in the Senate and House.

Nothing is certain, but the pragmatic nature of their budget, which would cover two years, would be compelling after this fall’s government shutdown and general budget catastrophe.

The Murray and Ryan approach rolls back $63 billion of the broad, blind sequester cuts over two years, evenly split between defense and nondefense spending. The deal, across two budget cycles, raises some new money through fees, but not significant new revenue.

Murray and Ryan each gave ground on discretionary spending levels for 2014 and 2015 at roughly $1 trillion each year. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and nondefense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

A commitment to revive the traditional congressional budget and appropriations process is as important as the dollar figures.

Sequestration is a mindless slashing of budgets at an equal rate across all activities of government. There is no oversight or insight about values and priorities for different needs and spending.

The resulting turmoil inside the federal government, and concentric rings of confusion and unpredictability for local governments, contractors, businesses and ordinary Americans, took a toll.

One of the casualties was any remaining confidence in members of Congress to handle the jobs they were elected to do. Contempt of Congress took on a vigorous new meaning.

The federal government must function, and senators and representatives face elections in 2014.

A retreat into budget gridlock and another debacle over the debt ceiling in January would have consequences at the polls.

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