Key support for budget deal; deficits would rise

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 11, 2013 at 4:12 pm •  Published: December 11, 2013
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"We think that's good for the country. At the same time, we wanted to make sure that we are taking a step in the right direction for fiscal discipline," he added.

The measure marked a turn in Ryan's career, thrusting him into the spotlight as a deal-maker, rather than the author of staunchly conservative annual cut-the-deficit budgets that Republicans love and Democrats loathe.

As his party's 2012 vice presidential nominee and a potential contender for the White House in 2016, Ryan may well have to defend the agreement against criticism from other presidential hopefuls.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also counted among his party's presidential contenders, criticized the deal. "'I think to walk away from the already agreed-upon reductions in spending that were so difficult to achieve, I think opens the floodgates that really threaten to put us right back in these spending habits and really, we're going to continue to have a government that spends more money than it takes in," he said.

Other conservatives made plain their unhappiness.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said spending levels in current law are lower than those in the agreement. "The default, to do nothing, was a win for conservatives," he said.

The Club for Growth said Sen. Ted Cruz was also opposed, although his office declined to issue an official confirmation. Either way, there was no talk of a repeat of last fall's all-night filibuster in which the Texas Republican demanded the new health care law be defunded in exchange for keeping the government operating.

Democrats were less than ecstatic, too, given that Republicans refused to include the extension of unemployment benefits.

"Looking at it on its own merits, I think the pros outweigh the cons," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who worked privately to secure a last-minute change that shields current federal workers from higher pension costs.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the party's leader, said she would seek neither to round up support nor scuttle the measure.

"Stay tuned," she told reporters. Later in the day, 165 Democrats signed a letter to Boehner not to let the House adjourn before it votes on extending the program.

Without action by Congress, benefits will end on Dec. 28 for an estimated 1.3 million unemployed workers off the job longer than 26 weeks. An additional 1.9 million would experience the same fate in the early months of 2014, according to administration estimates.

Republicans were unrelenting on the jobless benefits but not on every issue. Officials said that Boehner and Reid had jointly decided to add a three-month provision to the budget deal that would prevent a 20 percent cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients. Payments would rise by one half of one percent instead.

The cost, $8 billion, would be offset by savings elsewhere in Medicare and in Medicaid.

Among Republicans, House Appropriations Committee members also favored the budget deal, since it increased the likelihood they would be able to pass annual spending bills rather than rely on short-term stopgap bills that reduce their power over the federal purse.

So, too defense hawks in both parties, pleased that the agreement would restore some of the across-the-board reductions made in the Pentagon budget. "This is something I can support," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, head of the House Armed Services Committee.

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Associated Press writers Henry C. Jackson, Alan Fram and Donna Cassata contributed to this report.

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