“Members will make their own decisions as to where we go with this,” Pelosi said. “And again, we would have preferred something quite different, but we do recognize the value of coming to a decision so that we can go forward with some clarity on other legislation that we want to see.”
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, called Republican refusal to include the extension “shocking,” insisting that lawmakers “must not desert these workers by going home for their own holidays without extending the federal unemployment benefits program.”
“The budget agreement negotiated by Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray provides temporary relief from sequestration budget cuts over the next two years but does not represent the clean break from budget austerity that our economy so urgently needs,” Trumka said. But at the same time the measure “does nothing for the millions of people who remain without work and asks nothing from the people who caused our economic crisis and continue to benefit from economic inequality.”
Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said he expects to oppose the budget agreement.
“This plan won’t create jobs, get the economy back on track, or meaningfully cut the deficit,” he said.
The two-year budget agreement, which comes after almost two months of negotiations, increases projected spending overall for the 2014 fiscal year from $967 billion to $1.012 trillion, with an additional increase to $1.014 trillion in 2015.
The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion. It replaces $63 billion in automatic spending cuts in part by reducing spending in some targeted programs while increasing revenues without benefit of a direct tax increase.
The plan extends a 2 percent cut to Medicare through 2023, two years beyond cuts contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011. The plan also increases airline ticket fees in an effort to offset security costs. Pensions for federal workers and military personnel will be cut.
On CNN today, Ryan argued that the increase in airline fees is not a tax.
“Before 9/11, the person getting on an airplane paid for all of their security when they paid for their ticket. They covered all of it. Since 9/11, that person is paying for less than 40 percent of their security, and then the non-flying public, the non-flying taxpayer is subsidizing the rest of it,” he said. “We think that the users should pay for the services that they’re using, instead of making of some hardworking taxpayer that never uses those services paying for it.”
Despite the spending increase the package manages to further reduce the budget deficit by $25 billion.
On NPR, Murray defended the plan from critics on the left who wanted sequestration completely repealed.
“We replace a significant amount of that sequestration for the first two years in smarter spending cuts and in revenues, which was an important point that I think we need to make,” she said. “That this has to be a balanced and fair approach.”
“Was it the revenue I was pushing hard for, in terms of cooperate — closing cooperate tax loopholes that many people agree we should? No, that got taken off the table because it wasn’t agreed to by the Republicans.”
The two sides were forced to reach a budget agreement by Jan. 15, 2014, or face a shutdown of the federal government when a stopgap spending measure is scheduled to lapse. The budget conference committee was formed as part of an earlier negotiation that reopened the federal government in October after it closed for 16 days in wake of Congress’ failure to reach a spending accord.
Ryan, one of the plan’s architects who served as the GOP vice presidential candidate in 2012, appeared before the House Republican caucus on Wednesday to explain the plan and left the session confident that supporters have sufficient votes for passage.
“We feel very good at where we are with our members,” Ryan said. “We know that this budget agreement doesn’t come close to achieving what we want to achieve on our ultimate fiscal goals. But again, if we can get a step in the right direction, we’re going to take that step.”