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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 TrumpSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Georgia secretary of state withholds support for 'reactionary' GOP voting bills MORE signed off on a deal reached between administration officials, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber 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 ScaliseThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble Feehery: How Republicans can win by focusing on schools Former RNC chair to Republicans looking for new Trump party: 'There's the door' 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 SmithHouse panel advances Biden's .9T COVID-19 aid bill On The Money: House panel spars over GameStop, Robinhood | Manchin meets with advocates for wage | Yellen says go big, GOP says hold off GOP highlights unspent relief funds in criticizing Biden plan MORE (Mo.), Mark WalkerBradley (Mark) Mark WalkerNorth Carolina GOP condemns Burr for impeachment vote against Trump Madison Cawthorn throws support behind Mark Walker in NC Senate primary Democrat Jeff Jackson jumps into North Carolina Senate race MORE (N.C.), Tom EmmerThomas (Tom) Earl EmmerHouse panel spars over GameStop frenzy, trading apps The Hill's Morning Report - Biden on COVID-19: Next year Americans will be 'better off' NRCC finance chair: Republicans who voted for Trump impeachment will not be penalized MORE (Minn.), Paul MitchellPaul MitchellUnnamed law enforcement banned under the new NDAA Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting Juan Williams: The GOP's betrayal of America MORE (Mich.) and Gary PalmerGary James PalmerFormer Trump officials eye bids for political office The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending Shelby's retirement tees off GOP scramble for Alabama Senate seat MORE (Ala.).

Among the Republicans leaders who voted for it were Scalise, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyDemocratic fury with GOP explodes in House Trump to attack Biden in CPAC speech McConnell knocks Pelosi Jan. 6 commission proposal: 'Partisan by design' MORE (Calif.), Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz CheneyElizabeth (Liz) Lynn CheneyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - J&J A-OK, Tanden in Trouble GOP leaders clash over Trump presence at CPAC Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (Wyo.) and Rep. Guy ReschenthalerGuy ReschenthalerGOP lawmakers voice frustrations with McCarthy Tapper battles GOP lawmakers over criticism of Afghan vet's Electoral College vote READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results MORE (Pa.).

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsHow scientists saved Trump's FDA from politics Liberals howl after Democrats cave on witnesses Kinzinger calls for people with info on Trump to come forward 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 ColeDemocratic women sound alarm on female unemployment House votes to kick Greene off committees over embrace of conspiracy theories LIVE COVERAGE: House debates removing Greene from committees 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 PocanSenate Democrats likely to face key test of unity on 2022 budget Democrats blast Facebook over anti-vaccine pages Watch Out: Progressives are eyeing the last slice of the budget 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 McConnellKlain on Manchin's objection to Neera Tanden: He 'doesn't answer to us at the White House' Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House Murkowski undecided on Tanden as nomination in limbo 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.