Congress and White House Near Budget Deal

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Budget deal ‘manure,’ conservative critics say.

Republican leaders in Congress will present a plan to extend U.S. borrowing authority along with a two-year spending agreement, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions said Monday. “It is a good deal,” said Sessions, a Texas Republican.

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders and the Obama administration are close to a crucial budget deal that would modestly increase domestic spending over the next two years, make cuts in social programs and raise the federal borrowing limit.The new budget deal shaping up on Capitol Hill is already drawing fierce fire from both ends of the political spectrum, with one conservative group calling it “manure.” White House and congressional negotiators were working to try to finalize the agreement, which could settle most of the major spending issues facing Washington for the next year and a half — but which would require a tough vote for all sides. “Negotiations are ongoing, but I hope that Democrats and Republicans will come to a resolution soon that is good for our country,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said as the chamber opened for business Monday afternoon.WASHINGTON – Speaker John Boehner is pressing ahead with one last deal as he heads for the exits, pushing to finalize a far-reaching, two-year budget agreement with President Barack Obama before handing Congress’ top job over to Rep. The accord would avert a potentially cataclysmic default on the government’s debt and dispense with perhaps the most divisive issue in Washington just before Speaker John A.

The $112-billion, two-year budget accord would roll back some of the impending sequester cuts to defense and domestic programs and ensure government funding is extended beyond the current Dec. 11 deadline, according to congressional aides familiar with the talks. Boehner (R-Ohio), who is preparing to step down this week after being forced to retire early by his party’s hard-right flank. “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. It would also take budget showdowns and government shutdown fights off the table until after the 2016 presidential election, a potential boon to Republican candidates who might otherwise face uncomfortable questions about messes in the GOP-led Congress. While congressional aides cautioned that the deal was not yet clinched, officials briefed on the negotiations said the emerging accord would increase spending by $80 billion, not including emergency war funding, over two years above the previously agreed-upon budget caps.

Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, including changes to the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves. Former Congressman Bob Livingston said Paul Ryan “is a very capable guy, a policy wonk, who was reluctant to take the job because he liked being a committee chairman and valued his time with his family.” Bob Livingston, who briefly led the House Republicans in 1998, said “House Republicans said they needed him and he didn’t want to let them down.

The spending deal would leave it to appropriators to hash out a detailed plan adhering to the new top-line budget numbers before current funding runs out Dec. 11. “There have been some bipartisan conversations on Capitol Hill,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday. “It can sometimes be a useful strategy to tack the debt limit on” to legislation that is expected to pass. If the deal happens, it would represent a significant breakthrough after years of gridlock in Congress, especially on fiscal issues, as each side compromised on a core issue. And to get him, members were willing to agree to his conditions.” Ryan became nationally known as Republican Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012. Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, the Republican chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said Monday that Congress would need to pass a short-term extension of highway funding.

A lot of conservatives disliked the measure and many on the GOP’s right flank are likely to oppose the new one, which would apply to the 2016-2017 budget years. The prospective fiscal agreement would solve each of those problems, and theoretically could be one of the last spending fights between President Obama and the Republican-controlled Congress before he leaves office in January 2017. On the spending measure, one proposal would curb a pending 52 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums that would affect the highest and lowest-income Medicare recipients, said a Republican aide. 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.

Those recipients would have a premium increase of about $16 a month, plus a $4 or $5 monthly surcharge, instead of a $54 a month increase, according to the aide. The deal so far includes $66 billion more money for the remainder of fiscal 2016, and an additional $46 billion in the next fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2017. 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 fund was not intended to be used for such a purpose. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Friday the chamber was expected to address the borrowing limit this week. “We are meeting in a bipartisan way to find a path forward,” he said at the time.

They have voiced opposition even as financial experts warned of the potentially devastating economic consequences of a default, and noted that raising the limit merely covers previous expenses and does not authorize any new spending. But Warren said they “can be fired just for asking for time off to care for a sick kid.” Some want to fight President Obama, a Democrat, even harder than they have already in his seven years in office. Instead, aides said, the framework would permit $50 billion in additional spending in 2016, about a 5 percent increase, and $30 billion above current limits for 2017. Republican John Fleming of Louisiana said Friday he had been told that leaders were working on a so-called clean plan to raise the limit, without policy provisions sought by many Republicans. Fleming, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, said he and other Republicans would vote against it, but that Boehner and other party leaders planned to rely on help from Democrats to get the measure passed.

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. The urgency of acting to extend the government’s borrowing authority was highlighted by the Treasury Department’s decision on Oct. 22 to postpone an auction of two-year notes. Details were sketchy but the tentative pact anticipates designating increases for the Pentagon as emergency war funds that can be made exempt from budget caps. But talks seemed to falter after the majority leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy, abandoned his bid for speaker, and House Republicans wrestled with the question of who would lead their deeply fractured conference. Offsetting spending cuts that would pay for domestic spending increases included reforms to the Agriculture Department’s crop insurance program, curbing Medicare payments for outpatient services provided by hospitals and extending a 2 percentage point cut in Medicare payments to doctors through the end of a 10-year budget.

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 President 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. New auctions of electromagnetic spectrum to communications companies and sales of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve would provide new revenues. Negotiators looked to address two other key issues as well: a shortfall looming next year in Social Security payments to the disabled and a large increase for many retirees in Medicare premiums and deductibles for doctors’ visits and other outpatient care.

Congress and the White House have been discussing a temporary reallocation of payroll taxes from Social Security’s retirement fund to the disability fund. Officials who described the discussions did so on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about confidential negotiations. Just days are left for the deal to come together before Ryan is elected on Thursday to replace Boehner, R-Ohio, who is leaving Congress under pressure from conservative lawmakers angered by his history of seeking compromise and Democratic votes on issues like the budget.

Boehner’s resignation, announced on Sept. 25, lent additional urgency to to the talks, as it became clear that negotiations could prove far more difficult once a new speaker was in place. Such reallocations have occurred regularly over the decades but Republicans had opposed any new reallocation without changes to reduce costs of the program.

Houy said. “And it’s a good story from Boehner’s view if they can work this out literally at the 11th hour and 59th minute, if he can walk out the door and they have been able to accomplish this.”

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