WASHINGTON – Lawmakers on both sides of the political divide are finding a whole lot not to like about the compromise spending package unveiled by budget negotiators on Tuesday but congressional leaders remain confident the measure will attract enough support to pass when it comes up for a House vote on Thursday.
Conservatives, like Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas), expressed displeasure over a proposed increase in the amount of money the federal government is authorized to spend during the current 2014 fiscal year. Democrats are irate the package fails to include an extension of federal unemployment benefits.
Huelskamp said the proposal that emerged from a conference committee led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, “blows up the only real significant spending restraint passed since the Republicans assumed the majority in the 2010 election” – that being an agreement that imposed a process known as sequestration, which involves across-the-board cuts.
“This budget agreement is more of the same that we’ve seen out of Washington for years,” Huelskamp said. “Instead of providing solutions, it continues the insider game of playing ‘Let’s make a Deal.’ The deal provides for a $63 billion spending increase, raises taxes, and adds to the deficit now – all in exchange for another mirage of spending reductions sometime in the future, most of them five years after (President) Obama leaves the Oval Office.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was equally distressed, maintaining it’s “a huge mistake to trade sequester cuts now for the promise of cuts later.”
“The small sequester spending cuts were not nearly enough to address our deficit problem,” Paul said. “Undoing tens of billions of this modest spending restraint is shameful and must be opposed. I cannot support a budget that raises taxes and never balances, nor can I support a deal that does nothing to reduce our nation’s $17.3 trillion debt.”
The conservative Club for Growth promised to score the vote, telling lawmakers to pass another short-term continuing resolution that preserves sequestration instead.
“All Republicans have to do is nothing, and they will retain the rather modest budget savings that comes from the sequester,” said Club for Growth president Chris Chocola. “Apparently, there are some Republicans who don’t have the stomach for even relatively small spending reductions that are devoid of budgetary smoke and mirrors. If Republicans work with Democrats to pass this deal, it should surprise no one when Republican voters seek alternatives who actually believe in less spending when they go to the ballot box.”
Heritage Action also promised to include the vote on its legislative scorecard. Ryan currently has a 67 percent rating with the PAC.
Tea Party challengers to Senate incumbents also rushed out with their statements of opposition to the deal. Matt Bevin, who is challenging Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), accused the minority leader of “dodging a major issue while waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing.”
“This deal is bad for America because it raises spending in the short-term for long-term cuts that everyone knows will never happen. McConnell should lead Republicans in demanding a deal that, at a bare minimum, sticks to the existing savings of the sequester,” Bevin said.
McConnell has been conspicuously absent from weighing in on the budget deal while House Republican leaders flanked Ryan to sing its praises today. Senate Republicans would have breathing room to oppose the bill for political purposes if Democrats united behind Murray.
But if Republicans feel the budget plan doesn’t cut enough, opposition Democrats feel it doesn’t spend enough, especially when it comes to those seeking work.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, is among those who demanded that the committee include an extension of temporary Emergency Unemployment Compensation, initiated in 2008 during the height of the financial crisis, which allowed the states to extend that time limit placed on providing unemployment benefits. Failure to preserve the initiative will affect 1.3 million Americans who will find themselves cut off if an extension isn’t approved by Congress by the end of the year. Another 1.9 million Americans will be denied access to the emergency program during the first six months of next year.
Pelosi said Wednesday that Democrats are free to vote for the budget when it comes up for a vote on Thursday but she personally remains uncommitted, maintaining the failure to extend unemployment benefits is “unconscionable.”