Tuesday night Capitol Hill was abuzz with the news that the Senate and House Budget Committees had agreed on a new two year budget. Led by Paul Ryan (R) and Patty Murray (D) the two Committees unveiled their 2014 and 2015 budgets. The budgets eliminate some of the cuts from the sequester and increase spending from the baseline $967 billion to $1.012 trillion in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015. The new spending $63 billion in spending would be offset by $85 billion in deficit reduction over the next 10 years.
Despite the fact that the budget does increase spending and gives Democrats a partial win on the sequester (a monster of their own making) Republicans would be smart to take the deal. The deal gives Republicans a chance to focus on larger spending issues in 2014 including entitlement reform and Healthcare, aka Obamacare. If Republicans gain the Senate in 2015 and hold the House they can always craft a new budget that puts Obama’s feet to the fire on spending.
There has been some grumbling among House Republicans but leadership and many conservative House members expect or admit they will support the package. Democrats are unlikely to torpedo the bill seeing as it was crafted by one of their own and the GOP could finally point out how they are being the obstructionist party. Still, the Heritage Foundation and Club for Growth have both come out and said they oppose the package.
While it might appear the GOP is fully behind the sequester that is just not the case. Many House Republicans representing strongly military districts, such as Scott Rigell in VA have been vocal opponents of its defense cuts. In the Senate hawks such as John McCain have pointed out how its cuts have hurt military families and veterans. Even some Democrats have jumped in and joined with Republicans on this point though they have emphasized domestic program cuts far more. This would allow the GOP caucuses in both the Senate and House to find stronger unity on the issues heading into an election year.
Republicans were brutalized during the government shutdown in October. That brutalization largely explains why Ryan and leadership in the House would be so happy to have a budget deal that keeps half of the initial sequester cuts in place. Politically it gives them a safer hand and the ability to focus on bigger, perhaps more popular issues heading into next year. As mentioned above, entitlement reform is a biggie but so are chunks of immigration reform like the DREAM Act.
For Senate Republicans the budget deal is a win-win as well. Few Democrats in the Caucus are expected to break against the deal seeing as Murray is from the liberal wing of the party. As a result most Republicans in the Senate can vote against a deal arguing they do not support the increased spending. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said stepping back on sequester would be a mistake and it gives his reelection campaign a theme to hit on to galvanize his base.
The last reason Republicans should accept this deal is one many voters would agree with in principle but not on the exact details. It is good for the country. No, not in the sense of increased spending or higher fees on airplane tickets. It is good for the nation in that it gives business a sense of direction where the government’s spending priorities are for at least a year (2014). This is crucial considering business is scared shitless of the uncertainty and costs Obamacare is causing them. And, not to repeat myself, but it gets Congress back to focusing on other key spending and domestic issues.
There will be some Republicans (probably most in the Senate and a minority in the House) that reject the deal along with some Democrats but in the end the budget should pass. Republicans would be smart to make sure they are essential in its passage.