House leaders reached a possible budget deal with the Obama administration on Monday that would extend the debt limit through 2017, avoiding routine talks of a government shutdown, and would set funding levels for the next two years. The funding bill titled a “discussion draft” totals 144 pages and was posted online late Monday night, setting up a vote in the House as early as Wednesday. Republicans are scheduled to meet sometime Tuesday.
If the deal is approved, it would be a huge step forward after years of political gridlock and continued threats of government shutdowns. Government funding will expire on December 11th while the debt limit deadline is November 3rd. according to the Treasury Department leaders. This deal would provide $80 billion in sequester relief — $50 billion the first year and $30 billion in the second equally divided between defense and non-defense spending. Republicans will continue discussions during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
The deal would also provide funding to protect seniors from a predicted spike in the cost of Medicare premiums next year and would make tweaks to Social Security in an attempt to achieve $16 billion in long-term savings. The deal would be the last major achievement for Speaker John Boehner, who is stepping down at the end of the week. The deal is likely going to need Democratic votes to pass the House, but some moderate Republicans, defense hawks and appropriators will likely find many parts of the deal to their liking.
Senator John McCain who is head of the Senate Armed Services Committee says he could support the deal despite the lack of a serious increase in defense spending.
I think it’s saleable, my concern is defense,” McCain told reporters, “I think that we could move forward with this, it averts a shutdown, it puts any of these problems into two years from now, so I think it’s the best deal we can get.”
Despite strong support from House members, other Republicans do not favor the deal, including Rep. Justin Amash saying, “It’s emblematic of five years of failed leadership.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest would not give out any details on the “progress that is being made” on the budget discussions during his daily press conference. But he noted that “we’ve said all along that a budget deal will only be yielded if Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill sit down and work together in good faith to try and reach a compromise.”
GOP leaders in both the House and Senate have been highly skeptical that a “clean” debt limit bill could pass either chamber and are hopeful attaching the entitlement reforms and offsets included in the budget agreement could make the deal more appealing. The deal would make good on a promise Boehner made in the days after announcing his surprise resignation from Congress last month. He said at the time: “I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there.”