It seems as though our last government shut down is barely in the rearview mirror, yet already another round of budget talks has the federal government once more on the verge. Unlike the October showdown, however, members of both parties are working diligently to come to a compromise before any services are put in jeopardy. Wisconsin Republican Congressman Paul Ryan and Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murphy, both members of their own body’s Budget Committee, have brokered a deal that should leave both sides of the political aisle somewhat mollified.
The question is, will it make it through the chambers?
As is, it has at least gained the President of the United State’s cautious approval. “This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise. But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.
According to CNN, the proposed budget would “save $85 billion while eliminating $63 billion in forced spending cuts to the military and other programs through sequestration to achieve total deficit reduction of $23 billion.” That would mean adding back many federal programs, especially those meant to help workers find jobs. What it would not include is extensions on unemployment insurance for those Americans while they are retraining and looking for that work. It also wouldn’t raise the debt ceiling, leaving that avenue open later if the GOP decides to try another hostage-taking scenario.
Having the stamp of approval from the GOP’s fiscal architect Rep. Ryan should mean that such a proposal would have smooth sailing. Instead, as we have come to expect, Tea Party extremists are already lining up to pan the compromise. Texas Senator Marco Rubio and Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn have already declared there is no way they can vote in favor of the budget, with Sen. Rubio decrying it as not budget cutting enough. “This budget continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans,” he said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell doesn’t like it any better, with sources in his campaign telling The Daily Caller that he would prefer to keep sequester cuts intact.
The Tea Party opposition comes on the heels of a number of conservative action groups also saying they are against any deal that Rep. Ryan and Sen. Murray may have brokered if it removes sequester budget cuts. According to Politico, Heritage Action, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity all announced opposition to the budget, with Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, stating, “We will absolutely hold [Republicans] accountable if they break their word and go back on the sequester cuts.”
Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner was less impressed by the groups’ threats, saying at a press conference, “You mean the groups that came out opposed to it before they ever saw it?… If you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”
With so much dissension among the GOP, you would think that would mean that progressives would find the budget something they could get on board with, but not everyone does. As David Dayen at Salon writes, although the sequester cuts would be reversed, federal employees would be feeling a whole different level of cuts via pension loss and pay freezes. “[A] full sequestration in 2014 would have, in all likelihood, lead to layoffs. Now, just as Congress closes in on limited relief from sequestration, workers are told they’ll have to pay for some of that relief themselves,” writes Dayen.
The House is expected to vote on the new budget by the end of the week, before their session adjourns for the holidays. The Senate will then vote the following week before their vacation begins.