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Policy Corner: Congress Raises Debt Ceiling, Lays Out Deficit Reduction Plans

Just hours before the U.S. Treasury Department was set to reach the end of its borrowing authority, Congress reached a deal to raise the debt ceiling and also provide for major reductions in long-term federal spending. Although plans for where reductions in federal spending will occur will not be ironed out until a special 12-member Congressional "Super Commission" completes its work in November, the final bill provided for raising the debt ceiling through early 2013 and mandated at least $2.1 trillion dollars in deficit reduction over the next decade. After lengthy battles, the House and Senate finally approved the bill by wide margins.

Speculation about which federal programs will be targeted for the deepest cuts is already underway in Washington. Under the deal, discretionary spending—which funds the NIH, NSF, CDC and other science agencies—will be slashed by $21 billion in 2012. Over the next ten years, discretionary spending levels will be further reduced by nearly a trillion dollars, forcing every federal agency to look hard at its priorities. more

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