Budget deal divides Hill Republicans

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Budget deal divides Hill Republicans.

Congressional leaders and the White House are nearing a deal on a two-year budget agreement that would increase military and domestic spending in exchange for long-term spending cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The legislation would also likely be paired with an increase in the federal borrowing limit through March 2017, preventing a potentially disastrous default next week. The agreement, which would raise domestic and defense spending by $80 billion and lift the national borrowing limit until March 2017, could be voted on by the House as soon as Wednesday — the same day the GOP is expected to nominate Rep.

The $80-billion, two-year budget accord would increase spending somewhat on both defense and domestic programs, rolling back some of the automatic cuts known as sequesters that Obama repeatedly has denounced. The spending limits would be increased in 2016 and 2017, with Democrats getting an increase on domestic spending equal to the amount Republicans would add on defense money. The outline of agreement was being presented to members late on Monday and aides cautioned nothing was final as details are ironed out and leaders gauge the support from rank-and-file members. The plan will likely get a vote very soon, as early as Wednesday, so House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) can hand his successor less of a mess to deal with. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has locked down most Republicans’ support for his Speaker bid and is likely to win official support from the conference on Tuesday and become Speaker the following day after the full House votes on it.

But the deal was the product of weeks of negotiations led by Boehner, who is furiously trying to take the divisive fiscal issues off the plate for Ryan before his successor takes office. Still, the private talks and the frantic effort to push the measure into law only prompted sharp criticism from many House and Senate Republicans, who contended that Boehner gave away too much in the name of getting a deal. “We’re not just here to take commands,” Amash said. “People back home expect us to participate in the process. As news of the possible deal spread Monday, some conservative groups denounced the additional spending as a betrayal while some liberal groups warned against the possibility that trims in benefits would be agreed upon to pay for parts of the agreement. “Fiscal negotiations are ongoing,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as he opened the Senate. “As the details come in, and especially if an agreement is reached, I intend to consult and discuss the details with our colleagues.” After abruptly announcing his retirement last month, Boehner had vowed to “clean up the barn” for his successor. I hope that Paul Ryan will let us know how he feels about the process.” Ryan, who is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, deliberately took a low profile and refused to weigh in on the deal, declining to comment to reporters and not saying a word about it during a private meeting with fellow House Republicans.

John Fleming told reporters Boehner essentially “threw committee chairmen under the bus” and suggested this big deal was being dropped on members now because the committees failed to do their work. But, in Fleming’s telling, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Georgia, pushed back, saying that he was in fact working on fiscal reforms but was told by leadership to stand down. Boehner’s critics on the right quickly sought to galvanize opposition on the Republican side, and conservative lawmakers left the evening meeting fuming that the speaker was cutting a last-minute deal before stepping aside. “The only reason you negotiate in the dark is because Republicans won’t accept it,” said Rep. Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores (R-Texas) said the mood in the meeting was “mildly positive,” but members are waiting to hear the full details of the deal. “I would say that we’re very skeptical at this point,” said John Fleming (R-La.).

Walter Jones, a conservative from North Carolina, said he still was waiting on the details — but added that he “would not be blackmailed” into voting for a debt limit increase. Ryan, according to those in the room, did not address the issue. “In Washington, cleaning the barn is apparently synonymous with shoveling manure on the American people,” said Heritage Action Chief Executive Michael A. I don’t think you’ll hear anybody popping any champagne corks.” While there is consternation in the ranks, many expect there will still be ample support from Democrats — and a large enough number of Republicans — to pass the deal later this week. Under the contours of the current talks, the deal probably would be paid for with a combination of budget cuts elsewhere, new fees and relying partly on an overseas contingency fund set aside for military operations.

The deal would adjust spending caps for two years by a total of $80 billion – $50 billion the first year and $30 billion in the second – equally divided between defense and non-defense spending, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The new spending under the accord would be offset by sales from the strategic petroleum oil reserve, use of public airwaves for telecommunications companies and changes to the crop insurance program — among other measures. Another $32 billion in additional spending over the two years will come from the overseas contingency account, which brings the total package to $112 billion.

Republicans had suggested tapping that account before to boost military funding, but Democrats and even some Republicans argued it was an accounting gimmick because the emergency war fund was not intended to be used for such a purpose. He is under pressure to secure a deal before he leaves, so that Ryan will not have to begin his speakership by dealing with a contentious budget fight. But conservatives will be closely watching whether Ryan supports the deal and works to get it enacted, particularly since it was negotiated by leaders and did not go through the relevante committees. Democrats probably will object to cuts to the Social Security Disability Insurance program that would lower part of the benefits individuals receive based upon any wages they earn. Discussions have also included maintaining a 2 percent cut to Medicare provider payments that were included in the 2011 Budget Control Act, also known as the sequester.

The GOP will score a victory with another provision that would do away with an Affordable Care Act requirement that larger companies automatically sign up workers for healthcare unless the workers specifically opt out. Despite the GOP concerns, if Pelosi agrees to back the package, and Boehner can deliver a large segment of his conference, it could be enough to overcome opposition from conservative factions. The deal under discussion would extend the life of the disability fund for as many as six years and would include programmatic changes, such as allowing some recipients who can still work to take partial payments while earning outside income.

Even if it is approved this week, a separate spending bill would still need to be passed by Congress to keep government running after the Dec. 11 deadline. A pilot version of that program has been in effect in several states and has been shown to reduce the number of applicants approved, lowering the cost of the program. This final effort by Boehner could result in a politically heroic act to resolve looming crises despite deep resistance from the GOP majority in the House – or it could cement his standing among hard-right Republicans that his willingness to compromise with Obama makes him insufficiently conservative. “Listen, this is not about us,” Boehner said last week. “Our job is to do the right thing for the American people every day.

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