Budget Deal Clears the House

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Rep. Paul Ryan
©2013 Richard A. Bloom
Sarah Mimms and Tim Alberta
Dec. 12, 2013, 1:26 p.m.

After 24 hours of open war­fare, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of House Re­pub­lic­ans lined up be­hind their lead­ers Thursday night to ap­prove a budget plan that has in­furi­ated the party’s con­ser­vat­ive base.

The House passed a two-year budget bill, 332-94, that if it be­comes law will fund the gov­ern­ment through Oc­to­ber 2015 and avoid an­oth­er gov­ern­ment shut­down in Janu­ary.

The bill rep­res­ents a small deal hashed out over months by Rep. Paul Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray, and it leaves many of the big ques­tions about fu­ture spend­ing — in­clud­ing en­ti­tle­ment and tax re­form — for an­oth­er day.

It re­ceived some op­pos­i­tion in both parties, with Demo­crats com­plain­ing that it will not ex­tend long-term un­em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance be­ne­fits — set to ex­pire on Dec. 28 — and Re­pub­lic­ans con­cerned about eas­ing se­quest­ra­tion while rais­ing rev­en­ues. Sev­er­al ma­jor con­ser­vat­ive groups came out against the meas­ure, but the op­pos­i­tion had little im­pact. The bill passed with 169 Re­pub­lic­ans and 163 Demo­crats vot­ing for the meas­ure; 62 Re­pub­lic­ans and 32 Demo­crats op­posed it.

“It was much high­er than I ex­pec­ted, I was very pleas­antly sur­prised,” Ry­an said of the vote. “I think people are hungry to do things around here … I got so many of my col­leagues say­ing thank you for bring­ing some nor­malcy back to this place. I’m very pleased about that.”

One fas­cin­at­ing as­pect of the vote was an un­usu­al split among the House’s most con­ser­vat­ive mem­bers.

Of the five-mem­ber “Jedi Coun­cil” group that worked to bridge the gap earli­er this year between House Speak­er John Boehner and House con­ser­vat­ives, three voted for the budget pro­pos­al and two voted against.

Reps. Tom Price and Jeb Hensarling, both former chair­men of the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, joined Ry­an in ap­prov­ing the meas­ure. Rep. Jim Jordan and cur­rent RSC Chair­man Steve Scal­ise op­posed the deal.

Scal­ise had been un­de­cided on the pro­pos­al since its un­veil­ing, and re­fused to com­ment on which way he was lean­ing be­fore the vote. But after he fired the RSC’s long­time ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or, Paul Tell­er, on Wed­nes­day — a move that was heav­ily cri­ti­cized by out­side groups — Scal­ise would have en­dured even more right-wing op­pos­i­tion had he voted in fa­vor of the deal.

One of the biggest sur­prises of the night came when Rep. Tom Graves, a lead­ing House con­ser­vat­ive who was the ar­chi­tect of the House GOP’s strategy to de­fund Obama­care, voted for the budget com­prom­ise. Graves, who sits on the Ap­pro­pri­ations Com­mit­tee, had pre­vi­ously ex­pressed a de­sire to re­turn to “reg­u­lar or­der” in which ap­pro­pri­at­ors write spend­ing pack­ages. Graves was greeted with a hearty round of hand­shakes from his col­leagues after re­gis­ter­ing his vote.

Else­where, some oth­er pop­u­lar House con­ser­vat­ives who were pre­vi­ously un­de­cided wound up split­ting on the vote. Rep. Dav­id Sch­weikert, who sports a per­fect 100 per­cent on Her­it­age Ac­tion’s le­gis­lat­ive score­card, kept his per­fec­tion in­tact by op­pos­ing the meas­ure. On the flip side, Rep. Marlin Stutz­man, viewed as a po­ten­tial suc­cessor to Scal­ise at the RSC, voted in fa­vor of the budget deal.

The bill sets top-line fund­ing levels at $1.012 tril­lion for fisc­al 2014 and $1.014 tril­lion for fisc­al 2015, while provid­ing $63 bil­lion in se­quester re­lief over two years, paid for through a com­bin­a­tion of fees and man­dat­ory sav­ings. The deal will also re­duce the de­fi­cit by $28 bil­lion over the next 10 years.

The bill in­cludes an amend­ment that will ex­tend the “doc fix” for­mula, which is used to re­im­burse doc­tors un­der Medi­care, for three months, while con­gres­sion­al ne­go­ti­at­ors con­tin­ue to haggle over a long-term solu­tion.

The bill now heads to the Sen­ate, where pas­sage is ex­pec­ted but not as­sured. Demo­crats will need five Re­pub­lic­ans to join them in vot­ing for clo­ture to get the bill to the floor, and they are ex­pec­ted to get them, though many Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors are stay­ing tight-lipped about wheth­er they will back the budget deal. The clo­ture vote could come as early as Monday, with a fi­nal vote Tues­day.

The budget deal is among the fi­nal votes the House plans to con­sider be­fore law­makers head home for the hol­i­days. Though the Sen­ate will re­main in next week, the House will re­turn on Jan. 7.

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