House ready to move budget bill

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The House is expected to vote Thursday on a two-year deal that would represent the first bipartisan budget compromise of the new divided-government era.

GOP leaders expect their measure will pass, despite complaints from House Democrats that it includes a fix to prevent a cut in doctor payments but does not extend federal unemployment benefits set to expire this month.

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Most Republicans appear to be backing Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and GOP leaders, although some conservatives will oppose it over concerns it does not cut spending deeply enough.

The agreement would set a $1.012 trillion spending ceiling for fiscal 2014 and eliminate $63 billion in proposed sequester spending cuts.

To make up the difference, the deal would raise a Transportation Security Administration fee and increase the contributions federal workers must make to their pensions, among other revenue generators.

The bill includes no new taxes and does not make any changes to entitlement programs. It also does not raise the debt ceiling, which must next be addressed by the middle of 2014.

In a closed door GOP conference meeting on Wednesday, Ryan sold it as a compromise that lowered the deficit by $23 billion, even if it was a far cry from the conservative blueprint he envisioned in his original budget proposal.

“We’ve got to find a way to make divided government work,” he told reporters.

That’s not enough for some conservatives or outside pressure groups such as Heritage Action and FreedomWorks, which had assailed the agreement even before it was struck.

That prompted a rare public rebuke of them by Boehner on Wednesday.

“They’re using our members, and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous,” Boehner told reporters at a press conference after the GOP meeting. 

“You mean the groups who came out and opposed this before they even saw it?” Boehner asked, interrupting a reporter’s question about the criticism from conservative groups.

The Speaker delivered a similar message to Republicans inside the party meeting, when, according to Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), he urged lawmakers not to be pressured by outside activists.

“The Speaker was very clear: There is only person who controls the voting cards of the member of Congress, and that is the member of Congress,” Womack said.

With the House scheduled to depart for the year on Friday, GOP leaders hope to send the deal to the Senate less than 48 hours after it was completed.

“We feel very good about where we are with our members,” Ryan told reporters Wednesday. 

The Ryan-Murray deal would likely remove the threat of a government shutdown through 2015, though lawmakers would still need to raise the debt ceiling, likely by the middle of next year.