Rare split for Boehner and McConnell

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) are headed for a rare split on the budget deal.

Boehner backs the agreement, while McConnell doesn’t. The two GOP leaders have worked closely together for years, and it is highly unusual for daylight to emerge between them.

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The Speaker on Wednesday urged Republican colleagues to vote for the budget deal negotiated by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).

He blasted conservative groups pressuring House Republicans to vote against the deal. His deputy, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), praised the agreement.

McConnell and Senate GOP Whip John Cornyn (Texas), who both face Tea Party-backed primary challengers next year, will vote against the bipartisan budget pact.

They are on the same side as the conservative groups that Boehner ripped, such as the Club For Growth, Heritage Action, the Family Research Council and the American Conservative Union.

A source close to McConnell said he will reject the proposal.

“He said he wouldn’t accept busting the budget caps,” the source said. “They traded busting the budget caps for that deal.”

McConnell on Tuesday praised the spending levels imposed by the budget deal that Republican leaders negotiated with President Obama and congressional Democrats two years ago.

“I remain convinced the Budget Control Act has done what it was supposed to do,” he told reporters. “It has been a success, and I hope we don’t revisit it.” 

A GOP aide said McConnell would wait until the House voted on the measure before making a public statement on the legislation.

Cornyn said, “I’m disappointed that apparently some people are willing to give up the spending caps for just more spending and no entitlement reform.

"That was always the deal most of us hoped for to shore up Social Security and Medicare.”

He added he is inclined to vote against it.

The deal would replace $63 billion in automatic discretionary spending cuts with a mix of mandatory spending cuts and non-tax revenue increases.

It would reduce the deficit by $23 billion compared to current law. Extending sequester cuts to Medicare in 2022 and 2023 will produce $28 billion in additional savings.

Conservative advocacy groups expressed dismay with the trade-offs. 

The Club for Growth, a group that has spent millions of dollars to defeat Republican incumbents in primaries, warned lawmakers against supporting it.

“This proposal swaps debt reduction today and next year, for the dubious promise of debt reduction a decade from now,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola, who promised to include it on the group’s 2013 congressional scorecard.

Heritage Action will also score the vote in its annual rating of lawmakers. 

“The deal relies upon promises of future cuts to offset the immediate spending increases,” the group wrote in a legislative alert. “Amazingly, negotiators moved roughly a third of the deficit reduction ($28 billion in cuts) to 2022.”

Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.), the third-ranking member of the Senate GOP leadership, said he is likely to vote “no” along with McConnell and Cornyn.

“I have concerns about it,” he said.

McConnell’s and Cornyn’s break with House leaders highlights the political heat of Tea Party groups.

Matt Bevin, who is trying to rouse conservative activists in Kentucky against McConnell, blasted the Murray-Ryan plan.

“Blowing through spending caps and eliminating discretionary spending cuts is how Washington has already racked up a $17 trillion debt with no end in sight,” Bevin said in a statement.

He took a shot at McConnell for not speaking out publicly.

“Mitch McConnell is missing in action when our nation most needs leadership,” he said. “Instead of leading, he is dodging a major issue while waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing.”

Senate Republican aides say they don’t want to blast the deal before the House votes as a courtesy to Boehner.

Conservatives challenging other Senate Republican incumbents fired their own salvos.

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is running against Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), called the agreement “a complete abdication of Washington’s governing responsibility.”

“I urge Sen. Cochran to reject this deal and insist on absolutely no spending increases,” he added.

Cochran said Wednesday he did not know how he would vote.

Milton Wolf, who hopes to knock off Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in next year’s primary, said that “it’s time for Sen. Roberts to put Kansans first and stand up to the out of control Washington spending.”

He criticized Roberts for remaining silent.

The Senate Conservatives Fund, which has endorsed Bevin, McDaniel and Wolf, lambasted the agreement.

“Mitch McConnell may vote against the deal so he can pretend to be a conservative, but don’t be fooled. He wants the deal to pass,” Matt Hoskins, the executive director of Senate Conservatives Fund, wrote in a fundraising email. “He made it clear that he won’t fight the Democrats on spending and he forced his party to surrender.”

Thune said Wednesday that Senate Republican leaders would not whip the bill if it passes the House.
 
Alexandra Jaffe and Erik Wasson contributed.