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Obama signs bipartisan budget deal, defense bill

By The Associated Press

This article was originally published December 26, 2013 at 2:59 p.m. Updated December 26, 2013 at 3:30 p.m.

president-barack-obama-speaks-to-members-of-the-military-and-their-families-as-first-lady-michelle-obama-stands-left-in-anderson-hall-at-marine-corps-base-hawaii-wednesday-dec-25-2013-in-kaneohe-bay-hawaii-the-first-family-is-in-hawaii-for-their-annual-holiday-vacation

President Barack Obama speaks to members of the military and their families as first lady Michelle Obama stands left in Anderson Hall at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The first family is in Hawaii for their annual holiday vacation.

HONOLULU — President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan budget deal Thursday easing spending cuts and a defense bill cracking down on sexual assault in the military, marking a modest end to a challenging year for the White House and Congress.

The White House says Obama signed the bills Thursday while vacationing in Hawaii.

Although the budget deal falls short of the grand bargain that Obama and congressional Republicans once aspired to, it ends the cycle of fiscal brinkmanship — for now — by preventing another shutdown for nearly two more years.

But the rare moment of comity may be short-lived. Hanging over the start of the year is a renewed fight over raising the nation's borrowing limit, which the Treasury says must be resolved by late February or early March to avert an unprecedented U.S. default. Both sides are positioning behind customary hard-line positions, with Republicans insisting they want concessions before raising the debt limit and Obama insisting he won't negotiate.

The defense bill provides $552.1 billion for the regular military budget, plus $80.7 billion for the Afghanistan war and other overseas operations. It gives military personnel a 1 percent pay raise, but also reflects deficit-driven efforts to trim spending and the drawdown in Afghanistan after more than a decade of fighting there.

The signing of the defense bill caps a yearlong campaign led by the women of the Senate to address the scourge of rape and sexual assault in the military. Under the bill, military commanders no longer will be permitted to overturn jury convictions for sexual assault.

Read more in Friday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

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