Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH promised to “clean the barn up a little bit” before resigning and he kept that promise, and in turn averted placing the country in the midst of another fiscal crisis. Boehner and the rest of the Republican Congressional leadership in the House and Senate reached a two-year budget deal and also reached a deal to raise the debt-ceiling limit until 2017, when President Barack Obama leaves office. News of the two parties nearing a deal began Monday afternoon, Oct. 26, 2015 and by the evening a deal was confirmed to have been reached. Boehner resigned in order to ensure he would be avoid another government shutdown and now made sure there will be no threat for two years.
The bipartisan budget agreement modestly increases defense and domestic spending, which was a compromise between Republicans, who wanted defense spending increased and Democrats who wanted domestic spending raised. The deal breaks the 10-year sequestration, spending limits, adding $112 billion in spending to the next two fiscal years, 2016 and 2017.
Defense and domestic program spending would be raised by $50 billion in fiscal 2016 and then increase those programs by $30 billion in fiscal 2017. The Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund would also cover $32 billion more in defense spending to be used specifically to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and continued military activities in Afghanistan.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) commented on the increase in spending in the budget deal, “As I have been saying for years, it is past time that we do away with the harmful, draconian sequester cuts. We must also ensure that there are equal defense and nondefense increases.” While House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA expressed in a statement, “The bipartisan budget package unveiled last night represents real progress for hard-working families across the country. At long last, we have broken the sequester’s stranglehold on our national defense and our investments in good-paying jobs and the future of America.”
Additionally, the deal would increase the $18 trillion debt-ceiling limit through to March 2017. The deal also restructures Social Security Disability Insurance, cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits. The first overhaul since 1983 extends the 2 percent Medicare cut and makes a flat disability benefit based on the federal poverty line. Another cut is a repeal of the auto-enrollment mandate that is part of Obamacare, the healthcare law requiring employers to enroll their employees to healthcare plans. The deal however, averts Medicare premium raises.
The deal, which is expected to be voted on by the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28 and will not be popular with both sides of the aisles, Republicans object to the increase in spending while raising the debt-ceiling limit, while Democrats will oppose the cuts to disability benefits.
Speaker Boehner met with the GOP conference on Monday evening about the deal, and was already facing objections from the 40 member conservative Republican Freedom Caucus. Boehner warned them Obama wants the GOP House to force a government shutdown, which would ruin their chances in the 2016 election. Boehner said the choice is “We can fall into that trap or we can lead.” Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA told the conference “Let’s declare success.” In a press release, Speaker Boehner outlined the deal and said, “In my view, this is the best possible deal at this moment for our troops, for taxpayers, and for the American people. “
Earlier on Monday White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest remarked about the negotiations during his daily press briefing. Earnest expressed, “Not everything has been agreed to. That means nothing has been agreed to. We continue to urge Republicans to engage constructively with Democrats to find common ground and do the right thing for the country.”
Since Sept. 17, Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, House Minority Leader Pelosi and Reid and their staff having been negotiating with the White House including White House budget director Shaun Donovan and legislative affairs director Katie Beirne Fallon.
The package deal would be the final major legislation to be passed under Speaker Boehner who is resigning from the speakership and his House seat on Oct. 30. Boehner resigned to spare the country another government shutdown, and give himself the leeway to negotiate a bipartisan budget deal. With a deal in place, it gives incoming Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI a clean slate to begin his speakership. Avoiding another government shutdown was also a goal of Senate Majority Leader McConnell who deemed it essential to ensure the GOP holds on to their control of both houses of Congress.
The country was the edge of an economic disaster with the debt ceiling reaching its limit on Nov. 3 and the country possibly defaulting on its loans and the short-term spending bill funding the government would run out on Dec. 11 risking another government shutdown.