Lawmakers strike major budget deal
WASHINGTON – Bipartisan congressional leaders and the White House struck a major fiscal deal in principle Monday that would raise the debt ceiling and lift budget caps on both defense and domestic programs, according to congressional sources familiar with the deal.
The agreement could be voted on as early as Wednesday, the same day House Republicans are expected to nominate Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to replace retiring Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as House speaker.
The final details are being ironed out and a bill could be introduced later Monday as negotiators draft the language to prepare for it for vote.
This deal would avoid a potential debt default on November 3, and it would reduce the chances of a government shutdown on December 11.
The agreement includes top line numbers for defense and domestic spending levels for the next two years, but Congress will still need to pass some type of omnibus spending bill that includes specific levels for various federal agencies to avoid a shutdown in December.
The deal includes $80 billion in increased defense and domestic spending over two years, a senior House source told CNN.
It also includes more money for the Pentagon’s overseas contingency account.
That new spending would be offset by sales from the strategic petroleum oil reserve, use of public airwaves for telecommunications companies and changes to the crop insurance program — among other measures. Moreover, the deal would spread out increases in Medicare premiums over time so beneficiaries don’t feel them acutely. It would also aim to preserve the Social Security disability trust fund, sources said.
Conservatives sharply panned the deal.
“It’s emblematic of five years of failed leadership,” said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan.
But Sen. John McCain says he will support the deal, even though it is $5 billion short on defense funding in 2016 and more than that in 2017.
“I think it is saleable,” he told reporters after leaving a Senate GOP Conference meeting.
Boehner’s office negotiated many of the details directly with the White House, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid were also part of the discussions as the framework was developed, according to a source familiar with the talks.
As he walked off the floor and back to his office, McConnell signaled leaders were on the cusp of a deal to raise the debt ceiling and budget caps.
“Yeah, we’re still talking,” he said.
He was then asked if he feels good about where they are he repeated, “We’re still talking.”
On the floor, Reid signaled talks were moving forward as well.
“There is no reason to have one — that is a crisis,” he said.
House and Senate GOP leaders scheduled a closed door meeting for rank-and-file members for Monday evening to discuss the emerging deal.
The legislation could be filed as early as Monday night with a House vote likely Wednesday — the same day as House Republicans vote to elect a new speaker.
The deal is not yet final, and could ultimately change. But the discussions are moving quickly since Boehner wants to wrap up the divisive fiscal issues before he hands the gavel on Thursday to Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who is expected to win House leadership elections.
It’s still uncertain whether the two sides — particularly in the House — could win over the rank-and-file and push the matter to final passage. But if Pelosi agrees to back the package, and Boehner can deliver a large segment of his conference, it could be enough to overcome opposition from conservative factions. Two sources said Monday that Boehner and Pelosi were having “productive” discussions.
The possible deal could give both sides cover. The White House has said that the debt limit should not have any corresponding budget cuts and should pass without restrictions in order to meet the November 3 deadline to avoid a possible default.
But if a budget deal moved at the same time, Republicans could point to the cuts Democrats agreed to in order to argue they were winning concessions from the White House. One source familiar with the discussions said that the two sides were looking at the possibility of a two-year budget deal, effectively decreasing the chances of a shutdown December 11.
Boehner was expected to discuss the matter with his leadership team later Monday afternoon.