Editors Note: Did you know CONSTITUTIONALLY the House DOES NOT NEED THE SENATE to pass a BUDGET? did you know the PRESIDENT CANNOT CONSTITUTIONALLY VETO A BUDGET? It is not a LAW, it expires…
McConnell is facing opposition from his own party. | Getty
Mitch McConnell gave most Senate Republicans exactly what they wanted: His bipartisan budget compromise effectively eliminates shutdown and default threats through the 2016 elections, makes modest entitlement reforms and beefs up national security.
And boy, are most Senate Republicans mad about it.
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In interviews with more than 20 Senate Republicans on Wednesday, a broad swath of the caucus either said they were outright opposed to the accord or ticked off concerns — rather than benefits — about the deal, which increases spending by $80 billion over two years with offsets and adds $32 billion more through a war contingency fund.
“Not liking it …,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a vulnerable incumbent who stands to benefit from fiscal stability during his 2016 reelection bid. “Leader McConnell probably got as good a deal as he could get. From my standpoint, I don’t think it’s a good enough deal for me to be able to support.”
Even members of McConnell’s leadership team aren’t offering public endorsements. Sens. John Thune of South Dakota and John Barrasso of Wyoming, the No. 3 and No. 4 GOP leaders, respectively, refused to commit to supporting the deal. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 5 leader, who is up for reelection next year, is a flat no.
“I don’t see enough change in behavior here to warrant raising a debt increase,” Blunt said in an interview. “I think there are a number of issues that should be debated in a greater context. And I’m not going to vote for it.”
Though the agreement is still expected to clear the Senate after passing the House 266-167 on Wednesday, McConnell and outgoing Speaker John Boehner always knew this was going to be a deal that would be hard for most Republicans to love. All of the 46 Senate Democrats are expected to vote for the package, freeing many Republicans to vote no on a deal that does little to satisfy hard-liners but will rebut the Democratic narrative that a GOP Congress can’t govern.
But some members of the House have grown so frustrated with the process of raising the debt limit without winning major concessions that they’re taking aim at the Senate’s arcane filibuster rules that have blocked conservatives from taking more radical budget steps.
Those concerns boiled over in the past week regarding “regular order” and the annual 12 appropriations bills, which Democrats began blocking this summer as a way to force the broad budget negotiations that produced the current accord.
McConnell started a working group to address the matter, but on Monday he went a step further, approaching Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid with an eleventh-hour ask: Would Democrats agree to relax their filibusters on appropriations bills as part of the budget deal?
The answer from Reid was swift and decisive: No.
A McConnell pitch for less formal understanding between the two parties to support spending bills that clear committee was similarly rejected by the Democratic leader, according to sources in both parties familiar with the matter.
Top Capitol Hill Republicans doubted a Senate rules change would have won over the conservative rabble-rousers anyway. But the exchange highlights the angst in GOP circles about the deal — and how voters may view it.
On Wednesday, a Gallup poll showed more Republicans have unfavorable views of McConnell than have favorable views of him for the first time since 2010.
With Boehner riding off into the sunset and his presumed successor Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) keeping some distance from the budget deal, McConnell is now the clear target for the right as it blames him for capitulating to Democrats. McConnell allies and supporters of the budget deal, a small chunk of the Senate GOP on Wednesday, rejected accusations that President Barack Obama got everything he wanted from the talks.
“I totally disagree with it,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “We got some very crucial things out of this deal.”
Senior Republican aides predict a quiet group of Republicans will end up supporting the deal, including a mix of moderates, defense hawks and McConnell allies that will help him comfortably clear 60 votes. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) will support the budget agreement, as will the second-ranking Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas.
Meanwhile, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he expects most members of his powerful committee — eager to relieve the spending caps that the military says have hampered national defense — to back the budget agreement.
“There’s a lot of good for our military,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who plans to vote for the budget agreement. “I’m more concerned with making sure we get the funding that we think our troops need to deal with the damaging impact that sequestration’s had with them over time.”
But in sports parlance, enacting this budget deal amounts to winning ugly.
“I’m having difficulty finding anything good with any of things we’re doing right now,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.). “I couldn’t be more disappointed.”
Added Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who is up for reelection in a swing state next year and says he will vote no: “I have concerns about it because of the fact that it doesn’t get at the underlying problem, which is the need to extend the debt again.”
Part of the problem for Republicans is the optics of the deal: Vote for it and you are surrendering, in the words of Sen. Ted Cruz, and vote against it and you want to shut down the government, in the words of Democrats.
The conservative wing of the Senate Republican Conference swung into action on Wednesday, with Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions circulating a letter pushing fellow Republicans to oppose the budget deal, fuming that the accord “isn’t how we promised to run the Senate.” And off Capitol Hill, the outside group Senate Conservatives Fund sent out a fundraising appeal pegged to the agreement, arguing that “McConnell’s debt limit deal will do even more to hurt Republicans.”
“Right now, I think I’d have to say that I’m more for sequestration than I am for spending more money,” said Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who also protested changes to crop insurance programs at a closed-door briefing on the budget deal on Monday night.
It’s enough to give even a senator like Dan Coats of Indiana pause, even though he is retiring and doesn’t have to worry about voter backlash.
“Some are caught between waving the white flag of surrender and shutting down the government,” Coats said. “Hopefully, there’s a place in between.”
And some Republicans already are trying to revisit the latest budget deal, with farm-state Republicans hoping to eliminate $3 billion in cuts to crop insurance subsidies. A group of them, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, met in McConnell’s office privately on Wednesday to explore how to reverse the unpopular cut in December.
“All I’ve heard is that there would be some commitment to work on it in the omnibus,” said Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). And even so, Hoeven is leaning against the budget deal. “I still have concerns at this point.”
— Lauren French contributed to this report.