Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, leader of the GOP fiscal hawks, have managed to hammer out a deal that could temporarily avert yet another budget crisis and a government shutdown next month. But they’re already having to contend with possible revolt from conservatives upset that the deal is actually attempting to restore some sequester cuts.
While many observers are astounded that Ryan and Murray achieved something that was starting to enter the realm of the impossible—an actual agreement on a budget—it appears that Congress might find yet another way to shoot itself in the foot.
A cohort of 18 House Republicans have already written a letter calling on House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to ignore the potential deal and vote on a “clean” budget resolution.
The deal would keep the government open and avoid a shutdown when the current funding expires on January 15. In addition it would replace about 33 percent of the sequestration cuts over the next two years by splitting the restored $63 billion in spending between defense and domestic programs. The agreement would also allow agencies to reallocate the cuts as they see fit, which is a major change.
Ryan said the budget plan doesn’t raise taxes and that it’s a “step in the right direction.” He believes it will pass the GOP-controlled House — no doubt aided by his endorsement.
“What am I getting out of this? I’m getting more deficit reduction. So the deficit will go down more by passing this than if we did nothing,” he said.
Murray said, “Our deal puts jobs and economic growth first by rolling back … harmful cuts to education, medical research, infrastructure investments and defense jobs for the next two years.”
From the White House, President Obama called the proposal a “good first step,” but he urged Congress to extend federal unemployment benefits past their expiration at the end of the calendar year.
Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a leading deficit hawk, was displeased that the new deal fails to address core issues of wasteful spending in Washington, though he conceded in an interview with U.S. News that it was probably “the best” that Ryan and Murray could get at this time.
As NPR points out, three powerful conservative lobby groups, FreedomWorks, Heritage Action and CATO, have all panned the deal, while the Tea Party Express, which calls itself the nation’s largest Tea Party political action committee, said the deal announced Tuesday was disappointing.
“If the sequestration was a baby step forward, this is a baby step backward,” Chairman Amy Kremer said in a statement. “Americans deserve better than a compromise that continues excessive spending, adding fees in lieu of taxes.”
Ryan must sell the deal to skeptical GOP conservatives today in a closed-door meeting.
“This agreement makes sure that we don’t have a government shutdown scenario in January. It makes sure that we don’t have another government shutdown scenario in October,” Ryan said last night. “It makes sure that we don’t lurch from crisis to crisis.”
As for the extension of unemployment benefits to workers unemployed for more than 26 weeks, a program that expires on Dec. 28 when payments will be cut off for an estimated 1.3 million people, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has agreed to stage a vote on the measure later this year.
However, it’s not clear whether there’s enough Republican support for it to go anywhere.