- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 29, 2015

The budget deal was poised to clear Congress early Friday morning as Senate GOP leaders sought to tamp down a last-minute rebellion by conservatives unhappy with the billions of dollars in new spending and potentially $1 trillion in new debt envisioned in the legislation.

The deal has gotten wrapped up in presidential politics, however, with Sen. Rand Paul, one of the GOP’s White House contenders, forcing early-morning votes as he sought to make the process as painful as possible for his Kentucky seat mate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

At Wednesday’s presidential debate Mr. Paul had vowed to filibuster the deal — but conceded he would need the support of 40 of his colleagues to succeed.

That was unlikely, as Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive of the deal and Mr. McConnell was working his fellow Republicans to try to win the 15 or so votes needed from their side to win passage.

“This agreement isn’t perfect. I share some concerns other colleagues have raised,” Mr. McConnell said. “But here’s the bottom line. This is a fully-offset agreement that rejects tax hikes, secures long-term savings through entitlement reforms, and provides increased support for our military — at a time when we confront threats in multiple theaters.”

The deal would boost spending by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, evenly divided between defense and domestic needs.

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It would also grant the White House a debt holiday, meaning the president can borrow as much as needed to keep the government open through March 2017.

GOP leaders said the deal doesn’t break their principles because the additional $80 billion is offset by cuts and savings, most of it back-loaded into the 2020s.

But rank-and-file Republicans ripped the deal as a sham, pointing to gimmicks used to try to make the math add up.

One of those gimmicks was to shift a payment date from October 2025 to September 2025 — thus bringing $2.3 billion to the federal treasury a month earlier, though still a decade down the road, and money that was always going to be collected anyway.

The bill also takes $1.5 billion out of a federal crime-victims fund and uses it to pay for other spending now.

“All I see is more spending and no change to the status quo,” said Sen. James Lankford, Oklahoma Republican.

For such a massive deal, the bill has been put on a speedy path. It was written late Monday, and cleared the House Wednesday afternoon. Mr. McConnell wanted the Senate to vote before the sun rose Friday morning, meaning the 144-page legislation, controlling trillions of dollars of spending over its lifetime, would have just three days in the sunshine.

In exchange for granting the Obama White House a debt holiday and siphoning money from regular Social Security to the disability program, Republicans insisted on new changes that will require disability applicants to do more to prove they are actually unable to work.

Those changes will save nearly $3 billion over the next decade, and could amount to much larger savings over the 75-year actuarial life of Social Security.

Still, the tradeoff of more debt in the short term wasn’t worth it for many in the GOP.

“This is the No. 1 threat to us. Were accumulating debt at $1 million every minute. Someone’s got to stand up and do something about it,” Mr. Paul said.

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