Congress passes budget that would extend Medicare cuts, soften sequestration

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A bipartisan budget deal is on the verge of becoming law, after being passed by the U.S. Senate in a 64-36 vote on Wednesday. Long-term care leaders called for passage of the two-year spending plan after it was released last week, saying it will provide needed stability and end the type of political brinkmanship that closed the government in October.

While the nation's largest long-term care associations supported the deal, they're not as enamored of the extension of 2% Medicare cuts implemented in 2013. The cuts were part of across-the-board spending reductions known as sequestration, which the new budget rolls back for many military and domestic programs. This will result in a net gain for senior services, said LeadingAge CEO and President Larry Minnix.

The budget passed the House of Representatives easily, in a 332-94 vote. While in recent years the Senate has been the less politically divided body, the bill came up against strong opposition from conservative members protesting the softening of sequestration.

Ultimately, the Republicans who supported the deal said they wanted to avoid further shutdowns or similar crises, and some struck pragmatic notes about their current minority status.

"Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we can hope for," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

The bill now moves to the White House for President Obama's expected signature.