House

Right revolts on budget deal

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House conservatives on Wednesday revolted against a massive bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling and bust spending caps, complaining that the GOP could no longer lay claim to being the party of fiscal responsibility.

“I’m not only a ‘no.’ I’m a ‘hell no,’ ” quipped Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), one of many members of the Tea Party-aligned Freedom Caucus who left a closed-door meeting of Republicans saying they would vote against the deal.

It’s a “Christmas tree on steroids,” lamented one of the Freedom Caucus leaders, Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.).

“This spending proposal is disgusting and reckless — the biggest spending increase since 2009,” conservative Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) tweeted after the meeting. “I urge every American to speak out against this fiscal insanity.”

The debt hike, in particular, is giving conservatives “heartburn,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), a member of the GOP vote-counting team.

The swift backlash from fiscal hawks means that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his leadership team will need dozens of Democratic votes to help get the caps-and-funding deal through the lower chamber to avert a government shutdown set for midnight Thursday. {mosads}

At the same time, some Republicans predicted a majority of the majority would back the package.

Former Republican Study Committee (RSC) Chairman Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), who said he will probably support the package, estimated that about two-thirds of the lawmakers who spoke at the microphones during the closed-door meeting actually voiced support.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), the current Freedom Caucus chairman, predicted that the budget deal will get support from a majority of the majority, but not enough to pass without Democratic votes.

It’s unclear how many Democrats will support the plan without concessions from Ryan, given immigration demands from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

As Senate leaders announced their bipartisan agreement, Pelosi was on the floor threatening to oppose the emerging budget deal without a commitment to consider legislation in the House to protect young immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, known as “Dreamers.”

But there are a lot of other items in the package that are attractive to Democrats, including money for the opioid crisis, disaster aid, more Children’s Health Insurance Program funding, community health center funding and the nondefense spending boost.

“We would need votes coming from both ways,” said Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.). “Pelosi I guess won’t vote for it, but … I do think we will have a number of Democrats that would break.”

It’s also possible more Republicans will back the legislation given opposition from Pelosi.

Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.), current RSC chairman, acknowledged in a tweet that the deal is “a struggle for any one with fiscal concerns,” but said he was more inclined to support it “the longer Nancy Pelosi bloviates on the House Floor.”

The deal between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) calls for raising the debt ceiling through March 2019 and busting budget caps imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. It would boost funding for the Pentagon and domestic programs by about $300 billion over current levels over the next two fiscal years, but lawmakers said only about $100 billion of that would be offset.

The Bipartisan Budget Act also calls for an additional four years of funding for a popular children’s health program; $90 billion in additional disaster aid for hurricane-ravaged Florida, Puerto Rico and Texas; billions more to fight the opioid epidemic and funding for community health centers that serve the poor and uninsured.

The legislation would keep the government funded for another six weeks, through March 23. That should give lawmakers enough time to write an omnibus spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year.

Many fiscal hawks who were complaining the loudest Tuesday were among those lawmakers who rode an anti-spending, anti-debt Tea Party wave to Washington during the 2010 and 2012 cycles.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) described the atmosphere inside the GOP conference room as “tense,” while Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said it was “kind of depressing” to think Republicans could be responsible for adding billions of dollars to the deficit when they control all the levers of power in Washington.

“It’s too much money,” Perry said.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) quipped that fiscal hawks might now be an “endangered species.”

Meadows and Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Warren Davidson (R-Ohio) were among the members who stood up during the conference meeting to vent their frustration, lawmakers in the room said.

Retiring House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), a close Ryan friend, also railed against lifting the debt ceiling, sources said.

Jordan, a former Freedom Caucus chairman, said earlier in the day that he was disappointed by the tentative deal and expressed surprise that Ryan — who has staked his political career on being a fiscal hawk — would go along with the proposal.

“It’s a terrible deal,” Jordan said. “I never thought Speaker Ryan would be supportive of this … I just never thought the Speaker would go here with these high numbers.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Brooks slammed the deal as a “debt junkie’s dream.”

“I don’t know if we have enough votes amongst the members to stop this legislation,” the outspoken Alabama conservative said. “All I know is that unfortunately those who vote for this bill are betraying our country’s future and they are selling out our kids and our grandkids.

“I am baffled why the Republican Party has turned into such a big spending party. It is one thing to spend money; it is another thing to spend money you don’t have,” Brooks went on. “No American family can operate that way; no American business can operate that way, and it is folly to believe that the United States of America can operate that way.”

Some defense hawks were also upset over the proposal because of the inclusion of the debt ceiling.

Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was prepared to swallow the spending boost for domestic programs in exchange for the military bulk-up, but he was thrown off by raising the debt ceiling as part of the deal.

He declined to take a position on the package until he sees the final details, however.

Part of Ryan’s pitch to the conference, according to lawmakers who attended, was that the budget deal not only delivers a long sought-after spending boost for the military, but it also clears the way for an honest debate over immigration if lawmakers don’t have the debt ceiling, the threat of government shutdown and other unresolved issues looming over their heads.

Cristina Marcos contributed

Tags Bill Flores Bradley Byrne Budget Chris Collins Defense spending Dennis Ross fiscal conservatives House Freedom Caucus Immigration Jeb Hensarling Jim Jordan Justin Amash Louie Gohmert Mark Meadows Mark Walker Matt Gaetz Mitch McConnell Mo Brooks Nancy Pelosi Paul Ryan Scott Perry Shutdown Warren Davidson

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