House Approves Budget, Providing ‘Clean’ Exit That John Boehner Sought

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Departing Boehner Jabs at Hard-Liners Who Showed Him the Door.

A day before giving up the gavel symbolizing his office, John Boehner jabbed at the hard-line Republican faction and larger forces in American politics that helped drive him into quitting as U.S.

WASHINGTON—The House on Wednesday passed a two-year budget deal that would extend the government’s borrowing limit less than a week before the Treasury risks being unable to pay its bills.The House passed a sweeping bipartisan budget deal negotiated by party leaders and the White House Wednesday, angering some conservative House Republicans.With all the to-do about the misnamed Freedom Caucus (will they support Paul Ryan or won’t they?), one big question comes to mind: Why doesn’t the more moderate, conservative majority in the House of Representatives tell this so-called Freedom Caucus to take a hike?

House avoided an internal squabble and picked a new leader Wednesday, and after several years of lurching from one fiscal crisis to the next, the chamber passed a budget that would avert any such showdowns until 2017. Tell them the truth bluntly: that the Freedom Caucus has no standing within the Republican Party because its members are not conservative or Republican. The House passed the bill on a 266 to 167 vote late Wednesday afternoon and Senate leaders have promised to quickly move it through the upper chamber. Unlike when he entered Congress two decades ago, there now are hundreds of radio hosts “trying to out-right each other” along with social media propelling voters into different camps, he said. The bill now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass, effectively bringing to a close a series of fiscal fights as the two parties gear up for the 2016 presidential race.

It lifts the debt ceiling until March, 2017, preventing a potentially disastrous default on U.S. debt the Treasury Department warned was just days away, and putting a temporary end to constant fiscal cliffs. That has boosted “the ability of a small group of members, or some small outside organizations, to stir up antics or mislead people,” the Ohio Republican told a small group of reporters gathered in his office on Wednesday. Republican and Democratic lawmakers fought several battles over borrowings between 2011 and 2014 that roiled financial markets, caused an unprecedented downgrade of the country’s triple-A debt rating by Standard & Poor’s, and forced a partial government shutdown for 16 days in 2013. “This agreement is by no means perfect, but on balance it’s a good agreement for our troops, for taxpayers, and for the American people,” Boehner said in a statement.

The agreement would essentially end the often contentious budget battles between congressional Republicans and President Obama by pushing the next round of fiscal decision making past the 2016 election when there will be a new Congress and White House occupant. Boehner, who has held the speakership since 2011, hands the reins on Thursday to Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan after a vote by the full House that’s widely considered a formality. The House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservatives, opposed the bill, calling it a “fiscal monstrosity” and objecting to secret talks between top lawmakers and President Barack Obama that produced it. The legislation raises federal spending caps by some $80 billion until September 30, 2017, with funding split between domestic programs and the military. Time is critical because both chambers of Congress need to raise the U.S. borrowing authority by November 3 to avert a potential default on the national debt.

House Republican leaders unveiled the proposal earlier this week and immediately faced challenges from conservatives upset over both the secretive negotiations that led to the agreement as well as the policies contained in the bill. On Wednesday, he said he has already cautioned Ryan that the speaker’s office “is the loneliest place in the world.” “Almost as lonely as the presidency,” said Boehner, 65, who entered Congress in 1991 and leaves office within days. Another roughly $31 billion in “contingency operations” funding would go to the Pentagon, offset by tweaks to entitlement programs including Social Security. Ryan supported the bill, but it drew sharp criticism from conservatives for its content and the way it was negotiated by a few members behind closed doors. “Just in time for Halloween, this legislation is more trick than treat, with phantom savings and a truly terrifying $85 billion in new spending in the first three years,” said Republican Rep. The budget deal was a crowning achievement for outgoing Republican Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, who had vowed to “clean the barn” before leaving his post and Congress this week.

In agreeing to run, Ryan, 45, told fellow Republicans he wanted them to unify behind him, end leadership crises and let him continue spending time with his family. “Paul Ryan is the right person to lead the team at this time,” Boehner said, referring to the current Ways and Means committee chairman who earlier Wednesday won the Republican conference’s nomination to be speaker. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.), expected to be elected House speaker on Thursday, said Wednesday he would support it despite his objections over the last-minute deal-making with the administration. In a sign of how Washington’s federal spending habits and its huge deficit will continue to flare up as issues in the presidential race, several of the Republican White House hopefuls including Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Ted Cruz expressed their opposition.

The bill passed with the support of 79 Republicans and 187 Democrats. “It’s not perfect—far from it,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said of the deal Wednesday. Cruz blasted it as “complete and utter surrender,” while Senator Rand Paul insisted to The Hill that he would try to do “everything I can to stop it.” The deal is one of Boehner’s final accomplishments. But he praised its changes to safety-net programs and boost to military spending. “It would provide greater certainty to our military planners to help ensure readiness and preparedness for our troops.” The agreement lifts federal spending above limits established in a 2011 law that have been in effect since 2013, known as the sequester. To offset this cost, negotiators tapped a number of sources, including by making changes to Medicare and Social Security, auctioning off spectrum controlled by the government, selling crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and tightening tax rules for business partnerships. In addition, the legislation would limit a historic premium increase for some Medicare Part B beneficiaries set to go into effect next year for services like hospital care and doctor visits.

Boehner also highlighted his role in ridding Congress of the so-called member items — provisions that in the past allowed lawmakers to specify money for their pet projects. Among the regrets he mentioned was the failure to close an earlier budget deal with Obama in 2011, something he said “still stings.” On another topic, he offered advice on how to create a more honest political system, proposing that all current campaign finance laws be replaced with one simple standard mandating full disclosure of all political spending. These cost-saving changes include allowing some recipients who can still work to receive partial payments while earning outside income and expanding a program requiring a second medical expert to weigh in on whether an applicant is truly disabled. Boehner blamed the 2002 campaign law known as McCain-Feingold — for its sponsors, senators John McCain and Russ Feingold — for having taken “money out of parties and forced it into these independent organizations who are accountable to no one,” he said. Ryan, 45, who was his party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, thanked his Republican colleagues for the honor of the nomination as speaker, and he pledged to unify the fractured party and give rank-and-file lawmakers a say in shaping legislation.

Rand Paul of Kentucky has indicated he will block efforts to speed up the deal’s Senate passage, but will likely not be able to delay its passage significantly. “We have before us a deal that removes the threat of catastrophic sequestration budget cuts for two years and allows our country to meet our financial obligations,” said Sen. At most, Paul could briefly delay the final vote by refusing to allow leaders to cut off debate before the maximum 30 hours allowed under Senate rules have expired.

He declined to say what he will do outside of Congress — whether he’ll stay involved in politics or even write a book. “A little this, a little that,” is all he would say. It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people.” The congressman’s nomination for speaker came at a tumultuous time for House Republicans, after Boehner shocked Capitol Hill by resigning last month amid opposition from conservative members of his own party.

One thing he acknowledged looking forward to doing is getting his hands on the wheel of a car, since he’ll be without a security detail for the first time in several years. In particular a provision reducing the rate of return for private companies that sell federal crop insurance drew outrage from top agriculture committee Democrats and Republicans in both chambers. The speaker is second in the line of succession to the U.S. presidency, if both the elected president and vice president die or leave office before their terms expire.

As part of last year’s farm bill, lawmakers beefed up the federal crop-insurance program when they ended an unpopular system of direct payments to farmers. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas) on Wednesday said concerned lawmakers reached an agreement with congressional leaders that he said would “completely reverse this disastrous provision” in a December spending bill. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) struck an optimistic note, saying in a floor speech that the agreement gives his panel the chance to have a discussion over how the government should distribute funding now that the debate over how much should be spent is settled. “That’s why I’m so strong for this bill,” Rogers said. “For me the two years we have now to get back on regular order and stop lurching from crisis to crisis, to stop that business, this bill will give us that great chance.”

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