Most Indiana Republicans oppose 2-year budget deal to avoid fiscal breach, raise spending
5 Indiana House members voted against the deal, and 4 supported the agreement.
WASHINGTON — Indiana’s House members split Wednesday over a two-year budget deal that would extend the debt limit, boost spending and provide a respite from the fiscal brinkmanship that has gripped Washington in recent years.
The agreement, passed after an hourlong debate and a last-minute scramble for votes, would increase federal spending by about $80 billion over the next two years, with the new money evenly divided between military and nonmilitary programs. It also would extend the nation’s borrowing limit through March 2017, when a new Congress and a new president are in place.
The deal cleared the House 266-167, with Democrats — including Indiana Reps. Andre Carson, of Indianapolis, and Pete Visclosky, of Merrillville — providing the bulk of the yes votes. Every Democrat voted for the bill.
Rep. Susan Brooks, of Carmel, and Luke Messer, of Shelbyville, were the only Indiana Republicans to vote for the deal.
Brooks said in a statement that her top concern is “to govern in a responsible way that will lead to debt reduction in the long term.” The deal doesn't add to the deficit, eases an increase in Medicare premiums facing millions of seniors and “averts a dangerous default that would threaten our economy,” she said.
Most House Republicans voted no, including Indiana Reps. Jackie Walorski, Marlin Stutzman, Todd Rokita, Larry Bucshon and Todd Young.
“The legislation that the House passed today stunts our progress toward meaningful spending reform,” Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., said in a statement. (Photo: Provided 2012 file photo)
Rokita, R-Indianapolis, said he’s opposed to raising the debt limit unless changes are made to expensive entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
“The legislation that the House passed today stunts our progress toward meaningful spending reform,” he said in a statement.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and others hailed the measure, saying it was a fiscally responsible proposal that would restore order to Washington’s budget process and allow Congress to provide fresh investments in military and domestic programs alike.
Boehner quietly negotiated the agreement with the White House and other congressional leaders, unveiling it Monday night as he prepared to resign his speakership and leave Congress. The Senate is expected to take up the measure soon, although a final vote might not come until Monday.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is running for president, said he will filibuster the measure. "I will do everything I can do to stop it,” Paul told reporters in Colorado, where he was campaigning ahead of Wednesday’s GOP presidential debate.
Although Paul could delay the measure’s passage, it’s unlikely he would be able to derail it. The Senate can end a filibuster with 60 votes.
The deal would ease spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which called for across-the-board cuts to government programs. It would give lawmakers an extra $50 billion to spend on federal programs in the first year and $30 billion the year after.
"We’re going to be able to make some vital investments in key areas," including education, scientific research and military readiness, said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
In addition, the agreement would reduce a predicted spike in the cost of Medicare premiums for some seniors next year and would make changes to Social Security — particularly its disability program — to achieve $168 billion in long-term savings. The measure would be paid for with a mix of tax and policy changes, including a provision to sell 58 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve between 2018 and 2025.
Critics derided it as an eleventh-hour agreement that handed President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats a big spending victory.
“Another last-minute, back-room spending deal by the White House and congressional leaders that busts the budget caps and allows unlimited debt for the next 18 months,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “No wonder so many Americans distrust Congress.”
The budget deal takes several thorny fiscal issues off the plate of Boehner’s expected successor, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. Without the agreement, the nation would have reached its borrowing limit Tuesday, and funding for the government would have expired Dec. 11.
Ryan voted for the deal, even as he criticized the secret negotiations that produced it.
"As with any budget agreement, this one has some good, some bad and some ugly," Ryan said in a statement Wednesday. But he acknowledged it would help him start with a clean slate.
"What has been produced will go a long way toward relieving the uncertainty hanging over us," he said. "It’s time for us to turn the page on the last few years and get to work on a bold agenda that we can take to the American people."