The Clinton Herald
---- — WASHINGTON (AP) — House Republicans signaled support Wednesday for a budget deal worked out a day earlier, a plan narrowly drawn but promoted as a way to stabilize Congress’ erratic fiscal efforts, avert another government shutdown and mute some of the partisan rancor that has damaged Americans’ attitudes about their lawmakers.
“There’s a lot to like about it,” said one GOP congressman, John Fleming of Louisiana, as he emerged from a closed-door caucus meeting.
In support from the rank and file that is welcome news to House GOP leaders, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., said most Republicans would back the deal worked out by Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and applauded by the White House.
The House plans to vote by week’s end before it adjourns for the year on Friday.
Still, there was some grumbling from both liberals and conservatives since the plan wouldn’t solve long-term tax and spending issues, and ignores expiring unemployment benefits.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a potential 2016 presidential candidate, announced his opposition, saying that “undoing tens of billions of this modest spending restraint is shameful and must be opposed.”
But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, dismissed criticism from groups such as Heritage Action, which raise money as they criticize Republicans for being insufficiently conservative.
“They’re using our members and they’re using to American people to further their own goals,” Boehner said Wednesday. “This is ridiculous.”
But many House Democrats were less than enthusiastic, too.
“Stay tuned,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when asked about whether Democrats would support the bill.
The agreement, among other things, seeks to restore $63 billion in automatic spending cuts affecting programs ranging from parks to the Pentagon. The deal to ease those cuts for two years is aimed less at chipping away at the nation’s $17 trillion national debt than it is at trying to help a dysfunctional Capitol stop lurching from crisis to crisis. It would set the stage for action in January on a $1 trillion-plus spending bill for the budget year that began in October.
The measure unveiled by Ryan and Murray blends $85 billion in spending cuts and revenue from new and extended fees — but no taxes or cuts to Medicare beneficiaries — to replace a significant amount of the mandated cuts to agency budgets over the coming two years.
In a blow to Democrats, the agreement omits an extension of benefits for workers unemployed longer than 26 weeks. The program expires Dec. 28, when payments will be cut off for an estimated 1.3 million individuals.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has agreed to stage a test vote on the measure this year, but it’s not clear whether he’ll get enough GOP support to advance it.
Aides predicted bipartisan approval in both houses in the next several days, despite grumbling from liberals over the omission of the unemployment extension and pressure from tea party-aligned groups that are pushing Republican conservatives to oppose the deal.
The agreement would increase the cap on so-called discretionary spending from the $967 billion mandated by Washington’s failure to follow up a 2011 budget agreement with additional deficit cuts. The cap would rise to $1.012 trillion for the ongoing 2014 budget year and up to $1.014 trillion for 2015.
The relief to the Pentagon is relatively modest since the agency started out facing a cut of $20 billion below the harsh cuts it faced in 2013; the agreement replaces those cuts but doesn’t bring the military’s budget much above 2013 levels.
“While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” Boehner said.
Even before the deal was announced, conservative organizations were attacking the proposal as a betrayal of a 2011 agreement that reduced government spending and is counted as among the main accomplishments of tea party-aligned Republicans who came to power earlier the same year in the House.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., issued a statement opposing the measure and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was seen as likely to oppose it as well. But key Democrats lined up behind Obama, especially after Ryan eased demands on making federal workers contribute more to their pensions.