WASHINGTON –The U.S. House of Representatives has passed the budget deal Thursday evening crafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., that would lock in spending levels for the next two years, even while the Republican Party remained divided over the legislation.
The deal was approved by a large majority, 332-94, and is expected to come up for a vote next week in the U.S. Senate, where the Democratic leadership is reportedly unsure of whether it can pass.
In a last-ditch effort to gather support for the measure as debate came to a close, Ryan declared, “I was part of the last presidential election. We tried defeating this president. I wish we would have.
“Elections have consequences. [T]o really do what we want, we’re going to have to win elections.”
Upon the deal’s passage, the London Guardian’s Dan Roberts tweeted, “There are actually people in the middle of the aisle of the House of Representatives shaking hands, and I believe they may belong to different parties.”
Just after the vote, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., blasted the House Republican leadership for pushing through “a two-year budget that will allow the federal government to spend an additional $63 billion more than current law allows – money that our country does not have. …
“Sixty-three billion dollars of new spending – and therefore new taxes in some form – is not a small amount of money,” McClintock warned. “It averages about $570 of added burdens for every family in America. … The new congressional budget is a mistake at a time when we can’t afford many more mistakes. The path of least resistance, even if paved with good intentions, is not a path America can afford to travel any longer.”
However, Rep. Randy Hultgren, R-Ill., shared a far different perspective after he voted in support of the measure.
“This budget agreement preserves fiscally conservative principles, ensures our military readiness and makes the first step toward breaking the cycle of government by crisis,” he said. “By actually capping discretionary spending levels below two previously passed House budgets and the caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 – without raising taxes – we are preserving fiscal responsibility and opening the door to true reform of our $17 trillion debt problem.”
Hultgren argued that governing through continuing resolutions and short-term budgets “hurts our ability to properly oversee federal spending, endangers our national defense and squelches opportunities to pass debt solutions that require looking further than six months down the road.”
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., did not vote for the deal, though she released the following statement Thursday:
“I commend Congressman Paul Ryan’s hard work and dedication that resulted in the best possible deal considering the circumstances. President Obama and Sen. [Harry] Reid have repeatedly proved themselves unwilling to address America’s exploding debt and deficit, which is why we are left with this too small incremental step. This budget does provide some much-needed certainty to job creators and small business owners. But ultimately this deal is too far removed from the balanced budget that the American people deserve, which is why I could not support it.”
A White House statement lamented that the deal doesn’t include everything President Obama wanted, but “it marks an important moment of bipartisan cooperation and shows Washington can and should stop governing by crisis and both sides can work together to get things done.”
Before the vote, Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, said it would be a terrible mistake for his GOP colleagues to approve the deal because, “[It] makes Obama’s exploding deficits and budgets the official policy of the Republican Party.”
Stockman was one of the few Republicans to blast the bill, although a number of GOP lawmakers had expressed dissatisfaction with the so-called compromise.
The conservatives’ overall muted response may have been due to Republicans being somewhat traumatized, after receiving the lion’s share of the blame for the government shutdown from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16., when they tried to block funding for Obamacare.
The Ryan-Murray proposal was expressly designed to avoid future government shutdowns until after the 2014 election. The bill abandons many sequester cuts and replaces them with promises of future budget cuts.
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist called the attempt to defund Obamcare “a very expensive mistake,” but he supported this budget deal, apparently buying the argument that the revenue it raises does indeed come from fees as opposed to taxes.
Stockman couldn’t disagree more, and was one of the few Republicans to voice strong criticisms of the deal, saying it is absolutely not an incremental step to lower spending, but actually increases spending.
“It explodes the spending caps, balloons the deficit and betrays conservatives and the Constitution,” he charged.
Lawmaker: ‘We steal money’
Fiscal conservatives have demanded to know how more taxing and spending will address the monumental debt of $17 trillion, with more than $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities that will burden future generations.
One of the few other lawmakers to be scathingly critical of the bill, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told MSNBC: “What we do is we raise fees, raise money, steal money. Raise the costs of pensions for federal workers. Do these other things in the out years that will never be guaranteed to be there.”
The Cato Institute called the deal a “huge Republican cave-in.”
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., in an interview with WMAL radio in Washington on Wednesday, likened the idea to the promise made by “Popeye” character Wimpy: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” He warned the GOP not to trade budget cuts already in the law for promises of future cuts.
“What you end up having is a promise that they may or may not adhere to,” he said. “I think the deal’s a bad deal. … If you want to put our country on a more sound footing, keep the sequester and add to it.”
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who did not support the deal, released a statement before Thursday's House vote saying the budget deal moves in the wrong direction by spending and taxing more, while allowing continued funding for Obamacare.
Cruz noted that under the sequester, Congress took a small step forward by reducing spending by 2.4 percent, and suggested increasing that number while protecting the military from disproportionate cuts.
"Instead, this proposal undoes the sequester's modest reforms and pushes us two steps back, deeper into debt. Supporters of this plan are asking for more spending now in exchange for minor changes that may possibly reduce spending later," said the Texan.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who didn't support the deal, argued that sequestration may be far from ideal, but at least it forced Congress get serious about excessive spending.
The senator worried the Ryan-Murray deal would merely trade concrete spending reductions over the next two years for theoretical spending cuts a decade from now.
"In the meantime, the deal raises taxes on all air travelers, so that Congress can continue to ignore both waste in discretionary spending and the ticking fiscal time-bomb of our entitlement programs."
Boehner calls critics 'ridiculous'
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, seemed personally offended by any criticism, arguing that those who want more spending restraints are "ridiculous."
Referring to groups who want less spending, Boehner told the National Journal, "They're using our members and they're using the American people for their own goals."
But, those "goals" are conservative goals.
At USA Today, Michael Needham, chief of Heritage Action for America, said the sequester, "while imperfect," at least has been effective in reducing spending.
He said the budget agreement struck by Ryan and Murray is a step backward as it calls for an immediate increase in federal spending, raises taxes and fees, and relies on "promises of future cuts that the demise of the sequester vividly illustrates cannot be counted on."
'A joke and betrayal"
Former Reagan Budget Director David Stockman didn't feel constrained to blast the deal, telling CNBC "[I]t's a joke and betrayal."
He said House Republicans "capitulated" in agreeing to a two-year budget deal that left the country to deal with an unsustainable fiscal situation until the peak of the presidential primaries in 2015, when nothing will get done.
"It's the final surrender of the House Republican leadership to Beltway politics and kicking the can and ignoring the budget monster that's hurtling down the road," was his blistering critique.
Increases spending and taxes
The Ryan-Murray plan sets spending at $1.012 trillion for 2014 and higher in 2015.
Meanwhile, Heritage's Needham, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas and others have rebuked Ryan's plan.
In a letter, they state: "Though conservatives support more spending restraint, the discretionary spending limits defined in the Budget Control Act represent a promise to the American people to marginally slow the growth of government."
Amy Kremer of the Tea Party Express said she didn't want conservative members of Congress to give up "the only fiscally responsible accomplishment of Obama's presidency: sequestration."
And Tea Party Nation chief Judson Phillips said the plan "should forever dissuade us of the idea that the Republican Party is the party of fiscal conservatism."