- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

The White House and congressional leaders in both parties urged lawmakers Tuesday to support a two-year, $1.37 trillion budget deal that dramatically increases spending and faces opposition among conservatives and some liberals.

Two of President Trump’s closest allies in the House, Freedom Caucus Reps. Mark Meadows of North Carolina and Jim Jordan of Ohio, said they’ll oppose the big deficit-spending deal that is expected to add at least $1.7 trillion to the national debt.

The full Freedom Caucus came out in opposition to the deal Tuesday night.

“The House Freedom Caucus has grave concerns about this budget agreement and will oppose it on the House floor,” the group said. “Our country is undeniably headed down a path of fiscal insolvency and rapidly approaching $23 trillion in debt. This is completely unsustainable, and we owe taxpayers and future generations better.”

But the White House got a boost Tuesday afternoon when House Republican leaders said they’ll whip the budget vote in favor of passage, with floor action expected Friday.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, emphasized in a letter to GOP colleagues that the deal “will properly fund our troops, continue to rebuild [military] readiness, and maintain our competitive edge against our adversaries.” Defense discretionary spending would be $738 billion in fiscal 2020, a 3% increase from current levels, and $740.5 billion in 2021.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, also urged approval of the budget agreement that would eliminate spending battles through the 2020 presidential election.

Mrs. Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin struck the deal Monday night, agreeing to raise spending by $320 billion beyond limits set in the 2011 budget sequestration laws.

The two-year suspension of the debt ceiling would let the government continue borrowing beyond early September, when the administration has warned that the Treasury would reach its current debt limit and potentially be forced to stop paying some of its bills. Such an impasse could lead to another government shutdown, which neither side is eager to repeat.

The deal also includes a provision that would prevent either party from inserting “poison pill” amendments or new “riders” to any spending bill unless leaders of both parties in the House and Senate agree to it. Top White House officials cited that provision while making their case to GOP lawmakers, saying it would stop Mrs. Pelosi and her troops from blocking the president’s agenda through the 2020 election.

“There will be no new legislative riders to stop this president’s agenda on deregulatory initiatives or building the wall,” Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on Fox News.

He also said the deal will continue to prevent federal taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion.

The president didn’t comment directly about the deal, beyond tweeting that he was “pleased” both sides had reached an agreement. In a speech to a conservative youth summit in Washington at mid-day, Mr. Trump indicated that another round of beefed-up military spending was his biggest priority.

“We have secured record funding to build up awesome might for the United States military, because we know the best way to prevent conflict is to be prepared for it,” Mr. Trump said.

Some prominent Republican lawmakers said they cannot support the budget deal.

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas compared it to a big-spending deal that former President Obama would have made, and urged the administration’s negotiators “to go back to the bargaining table and fight for the president’s priorities.”

“This deal irresponsibly jacks up spending by $320 billion without real offsets, and suspends the debt limit into 2021,” Mr. Cruz said. “Instead of finally dealing with our nearly $1 trillion deficit and $22 trillion debt, this deal just kicks the can down the road again. Three years ago, the American people voted to move away from the big-government spending of the Obama era. We should work to restore fiscal sanity, rather than perpetuating Democrats’ big government programs.”

Rep. Mike Johnson, Louisiana Republican and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said the agreement lacks controls “to constrain runaway spending.”

“A two-year suspension on the debt limit simply adds fuel to the fire,” Mr. Johnson said. “While conservatives can appreciate the agreement’s restrictions on poison-pill riders, the price alone is far outside of what Congress should be allocating.”

From the other end, some Democrats objected to the higher level of military spending.

Rep. Ro Khanna, California Democrat and a member of the House Budget Committee, said he is “concerned that defense spending has increased $100 billion since President Trump took office and now represents nearly 60% of discretionary federal spending.”

But Mrs. Pelosi urged her troops in a “dear colleague” letter to support the agreement, saying it would “invest in middle class priorities that advance the health, financial security and well-being of the American people and enhance our national security.”

“Democrats have achieved an agreement that permanently ends the threat of sequestration,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “We are pleased that the administration has finally agreed to join Democrats in ending sequestration’s devastating cuts that have threatened our investments to keep America Number One in the global economy and to ensure our national security.”

The Senate GOP leader said the defense spending boost is worth the price of more debt. The agreement falls short of the $750 billion spending figure the Pentagon had sought, but it is higher than the $733 billion House Democrats had offered as their ante.

“This is the deal that was necessary to continue rebuilding our national defense,” Mr. McConnell told colleagues, saying he will be “proud” to vote for the agreement

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