GOP senator ends hold on budget deal

GOP senator ends hold on budget deal
© Greg Nash

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her  MORE (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday ended his hold on the GOP budget deal between the House and Senate, likely clearing the way for final passage.

Corker's office said the senator has signed the conference report reconciling the House and Senate budget blueprints, something he had refused to do for two days.

“There is no question this budget is far from perfect, but it is some progress since it has been a long time since the Congress has completed this basic part of governing,” Corker said in a statement.

“I have had conversations on both sides of the Capitol laying out what I believe we need to do to prepare for next year’s budget process so that we can make much greater progress toward addressing the tremendous fiscal challenges our country faces.”

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It was not immediately clear whether Corker had won a new provision in the deal or received a commitment for changes in exchange for his signature. He was the only Republican negotiator who had yet to sign off on the agreement.

On Tuesday, Corker said his primary concern was the budget deal’s provision on changes in mandatory programs, which appropriators rely on to offset non-defense discretionary spending increases while remaining under the budget cap. The Senate GOP budget adopted in March contained a provision that would phase the changes out.

As of Tuesday afternoon, a Senate Republican aide said the new deal is similar, but not identical to the original proposal. The deal would limit appropriators to using $19 billion for changes in mandatory programs for fiscal 2016 and 2017, the aide said, which is the same level in the original resolution. 

After fiscal 2017, the budget would begin to phase out changes in mandatory programs, the aide said. The Senate’s budget resolution phased them out much faster.

There had also been rumors about the holdup being tied to the Iran bill, which Corker authored as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

With the conference agreement now finished, the blueprint could pass the House and Senate by the end of the week.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said he planned to hold the vote Thursday.

The budget agreement is expected to take aim at ObamaCare, lock in sequestration budget ceilings for next year and boost defense spending through the Pentagon’s war fund.

If adopted in both chambers, it'll be the first Republican budget agreement in a decade.