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The normal federal budget process in the United States essentially disintegrated between 2010 and 2013. Because Republicans controlled the House of Representatives while Democrats controlled the Senate, no agreement could be reached on annual budgets. Instead, government spending levels were set with “continuing resolutions”—extensions of levels dictated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, legislation passed to resolve the debt ceiling crisis of the summer of 2011. The BCA mandated steep cuts in domestic discretionary spending, spending that must be appropriated each year and which largely excludes the expensive social insurance programs such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the newly passed Affordable Care Act.

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