Pelosi Letting Caucus Vote However They Choose on Budget Deal
House Democrats said this morning that the Ryan-Murray budget agreement has gone from a no-go as dictated by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to a bill where members will be able to decide for themselves.
Pelosi wanted an extension of unemployment insurance rolled into the bill. It was not included in the final version announced last night.
"This was a hard-fought negotiation," Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told reporters after a conference meeting. "And I want to thank Leader Pelosi and my fellow conferees for making it clear as recently as 12 to 24 hours ago that the way the agreement was taking shape would absolutely not be acceptable to members of the Democratic caucus. It's now in a form where members of our caucus will have to decide for themselves."
Van Hollen said his own opinion is that the deal "is a small step in the right direction because we are able to restore many of the cuts that would otherwise take place as a result of the sequester, those very deep and immediate cuts, and it especially is good at restoring some of the cuts that would have taken place in important domestic investments, in our kids' education, in science and research at places like the National Institutes of Health, law enforcement, and those kind of areas, this will help restore almost two-thirds of the cuts that would have otherwise taken place in fiscal year 2014."
"And I believe that the way those cuts are paid for is not at all perfect, but a lot more equitable than it was 48 hours ago," he added. "Our caucus will have to look at the details as individuals, and obviously we'll be doing that over the next couple days."
Assistant Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said he was "very, very ambivalent about where all this was going," but "it turns out, after Biden committee group and the super-committee, and now this effort, third time is, in fact, the charm."
Pelosi said much of her caucus was just beginning to delve into the details of the agreement.
"And members will make their decision," she said. "I don't know where that will come down, because as you know, our budget that Mr. Van Hollen and our conferees were putting forth was quite different. It was about growth. It was about investing in infrastructure and short-term growth and long-term growth, investing in early childhood learning. It was about ending the sequester, but doing so in a way that enabled us again to support growth, as well as to extend the unemployment benefits -- unemployment insurance."
"...I think that our conferees did a really good job in mitigating for the damage to the federal employees and holding off even much, much, much, much bigger cuts for them that the Republicans had in mind. So we'll -- we'll see. We're waiting to hear what the response from the Republicans."
Pelosi added that she asked Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) yesterday where the House stood on bringing up an immigration reform bill, "and he told me, yes, we'll have to wait until next year."