House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal

House passes sweeping budget, debt limit deal
© Greg Nash

The House passed a two-year budget deal Thursday that lifts the debt ceiling and boosts government spending by $320 billion.

The legislation would suspend the debt limit through July 2021 and increase spending caps for the next two years, putting the U.S. on track to add an estimated $1.7 trillion to the deficit over the next decade when compared with the billions in automatic spending cuts that would otherwise kick in.

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Lawmakers passed the package in a 284-149 vote. Sixty-five Republicans voted for the measure, and 16 Democrats voted against it.

The legislation now heads to the Senate, which is expected to pass it next week before senators leave town for the August recess.

The bill’s passage comes just days after President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE signed off on a deal reached between administration officials, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) and other congressional leaders.

The legislation would ramp up defense spending to $738 billion and $740 billion over the next two fiscal years, respectively, compared with the current level of $716 billion.

Nondefense spending would rise to $632 billion and $634.5 billion during the same period, an increase from this year’s $605 billion.

But the spending increases drew criticism from conservatives who blasted what they called a lack of fiscal restraint.

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Trump, whose initial budget proposal called for a 10 percent cut to nondefense spending while supercharging defense, tried to give conservative lawmakers political cover by reiterating his support for the deal in a Thursday morning tweet.

“House Republicans should support the TWO YEAR BUDGET AGREEMENT which greatly helps our Military and our Vets. I am totally with you!” he wrote. 

House GOP leaders this week touted their wins in the deal: a major boost to defense spending, provisions that would ban so-called poison pill riders from spending bills over the next two years and $77 billion in cuts or revenue-raisers to help offset some of the bill's costs.

House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse pays tribute to late Congressman Sam Johnson on the floor Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA MORE (R-La.) noted before the vote that while there is more that he would have liked to have seen in the bill, Republicans are faced with the reality of a divided Congress that limits their ability to obtain everything they want in major legislation.

"You know, any time you have a big budget deal ... it's tough rounding up votes for it, because everybody can find something they don't like,” he told reporters Wednesday.

The legislation’s addition of $320 billion to the deficit over the next two years, however, proved too difficult a sell for some Republicans.

Thursday's vote split top GOP lawmakers, with "no" votes coming from Reps. Jason SmithJason Thomas SmithPass the Primary Care Enhancement Act Trump coronavirus briefings put health officials in bind House GOP lawmakers urge Senate to confirm Vought MORE (Mo.), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerDemocrats press OSHA official on issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America NCAA backs plan to allow college athletes to cash in on name, image and likeness MORE (N.C.), Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerHouse Republicans voice optimism on winning back the House following special election victories GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts Trump campaign launches new fundraising program with House Republicans MORE (Minn.), Paul MitchellPaul MitchellDemocrats on edge over California special election nail-biter Michigan GOP congressman sues governor over emergency orders GOP lawmakers slam proposals for guaranteed income amid pandemic MORE (Mich.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerTop GOP post on Oversight draws stiff competition Trump takes pulse of GOP on Alabama Senate race GOP protest overshadows impeachment hearing MORE (Ala.).

Among the Republicans leaders who voted for it were Scalise, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyHillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate Rep. Banks launches bid for RSC chairman MORE (Calif.), Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyHillicon Valley: House FISA bill in jeopardy | Democrats drop controversial surveillance measure | GOP working on legislation to strip Twitter of federal liability protections The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump ramps up attacks against Twitter The Hill's Coronavirus Report: National Portrait Gallery's Kim Sajet says this era rewiring people's relationship with culture, art; Trump's war with Twitter heats up MORE (Wyo.) and Rep. Guy ReschenthalerGuy ReschenthalerHouse GOP to launch China probes beyond COVID-19 Trump attacks point to Pennsylvania's critical role in reelection bid McCarthy unveils new GOP-led China task force MORE (Pa.).

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump to return to Florida for rescheduled SpaceX launch Pence names new press secretary House leaders take vote-counting operations online MORE (R-N.C.), one of Trump’s closest allies in the lower chamber, said that while he could not support the bipartisan deal, he had no intention of trying to make the president reconsider.

"I'm not trying to get him to flip," Meadows, who met with Trump on Wednesday, told reporters. “I think I've made my case as best as I can make it and compromise is something that you have to accept. I've been able to make a compelling case on why I feel like a different course is a better course of action, but the president saw it differently and I respect that.”

In December, conservative lawmakers and commentators convinced Trump to not sign a Senate-passed stopgap spending bill, which paved the way for a 35-day partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history.

Budget hawks this time around railed against the two-year budget deal.

“So-called Republican ‘leadership’ should be ashamed that they even considered this deal in the first place,” said Adam Brandon, president of FreedomWorks.

Leon Panetta, a Defense secretary under former President Obama who now co-chairs the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, called for a bipartisan commission to address the debt.

“Both sides this week so easily agreeing to fiscal defeat isn't bipartisanship, it is broken governance,” he said.

Since Trump took office, the debt has grown from just under $20 trillion to more than $22 trillion. While mandatory spending remains the largest driver of deficits, the 2017 GOP tax law is projected to add $1.9 trillion to the deficit over a decade, and bipartisan deals to increase defense and domestic spending, like the one this week, have added billions more.

But congressional appropriators argued the outcome was par for the course and that a good deal would have detractors on both sides.

“There's a lot of people that will never vote for debt ceiling on our side regardless,” said Rep. Tom ColeThomas (Tom) Jeffrey ColeHouse FISA bill suddenly on life support House GOP lawmaker breaks with party to back proxy voting House conservatives voice concerns over minority rights during remote hearings MORE (R-Okla.). “If you’re a Democrat, you’re going to be upset. ‘What, I can’t put any of our policy riders in approps bills for two years,’ or ‘that’s too much money on defense and we reduced what we wanted domestically.’”

Pelosi kept Democrats largely united in the vote, a turnaround from a showdown earlier in the year in which progressive opposition to the Democratic budget prevented a floor vote. Progressives had complained that defense spending rose too much and that there were not enough resources directed toward other areas of federal discretionary spending.

“Before a lot of it was theoretical,” said Rep. Mark PocanMark William PocanHouse punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate House cancels planned Thursday vote on FISA Pelosi pulls vote on FISA bill after Trump veto threat MORE (D-Wis.), who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “What are you going to get right now? You're getting a lifting of the debt ceiling for two years, you're making sure there's no sequester. I mean, there's actual substance that is meaningful to Democrats. That's the difference."

By raising the final two years of spending caps set forth in the 2011 Budget Control Act, the deal effectively ends the threat of severe automatic spending cuts known as sequestration that were intended to force a compromise in debt reduction. 

The House is expected to adjourn for a six-week August recess following the vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation COVID-19 workplace complaints surge; unions rip administration Senate Democrats pump brakes on new stimulus checks MORE (R-Ky.) said the upper chamber will take up the measure early next week, before the Senate leaves town for its own break.

“Considering the circumstances of divided government, this is a good deal,” McConnell said.

Updated at 6:22 p.m.