Just days before the election of a new speaker of the House, lame-duck Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made good on one last promise — that he’d try to “clear the barn” for his successor.
In one fell swoop, two thorny issues were crossed off the to-do list: raising the debt ceiling by next Tuesday and coming up with a budget agreement.
Shortly before midnight, the 144-page budget resolution was submitted to the House Rules Committee. The tentative agreement raises federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years, evenly splitting that increase between defense and domestic programs. Some of that is paid for by cuts to Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. Negotiators also agreed to lift the debt ceiling until March 2017.
“This is one of those moments when it’s important that leadership step in and take the ball and run with it,” said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., in support of the deal.
But as soon as details leaked, many hard-line conservatives objected to being excluded from the negotiations. The deal was reportedly reached in talks that involved only five parties: the top two Republicans in Congress, the top two Democrats and the White House.
“This is what we’ve been going through for five years,” said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., “where the leadership team negotiate a deal without speaking to any members of the [Republican] conference — apparently not even the committee chairmen who are in key positions — and then expect all of us to vote for it.”
While Boehner hopes “clearing the barn” will make his successor’s job easier, some members of the Republican caucus point out his presumptive heir — Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin — will inherit a deal many Republicans are already grousing about. They say Ryan should have been involved in the negotiations.
But Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, said it’s better that Ryan’s fingerprints are missing from this budget deal.
“I think this somewhat insulates Paul [Ryan],” said Flores. “But I still believe if there’s somebody that doesn’t like this and they’re passionate about it, that they’ll take out their feelings on Paul.”
The House could vote on this budget agreement as soon as Wednesday — the same day Republicans are expected to officially nominate Ryan as the next speaker.