- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Top White House advisers on Tuesday defended a new two-year budget deal against objections from conservatives about greater borrowing and spending, saying the agreement will disarm House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to block President Trump’s agenda through 2020.

“There will be no new legislative riders to stop this president’s agenda on deregulatory initiatives or building the wall,” said Russell Vought, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, on Fox News. He also said the deal will continue to prevent federal taxpayer dollars from being spent on abortion.

In negotiations with Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, Mrs. Pelosi and other Democratic leaders agreed Monday night that there will be no “poison pills” or new “riders” attached to any spending bill unless both GOP and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate all agree to them. Mr. Vought and White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this provision, plus an agreement to suspend the national debt limit for two years, essentially stops Mrs. Pelosi’s ability to erect roadblocks against the president’s initiatives.

The price of the deal, however, will add $320 billion in spending beyond budget limits set in the 2011 sequestration law. And it will likely increase the national debt by about $2 trillion over two years.

Conservatives are raising objections to the deal. 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.”

With more than $22 trillion in debt, Mr. Johnson said, “we simply cannot afford deals like this one.”

“I am disappointed Democrats denied the administration even modest concessions, and I will continue to make the case for restoring fiscal sanity in the Congress,” he said.

GOP leaders, though, said they would urge lawmakers to vote for the deal, saying 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,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told colleagues, saying he will be “proud” to vote for the agreement.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican, urged GOP lawmakers Tuesday to vote for the budget deal, saying it “establishes new budget caps for defense that will properly fund our troops, continue to rebuild readiness, and maintain our competitive edge against our adversaries.”

Total defense discretionary would be $738 billion in fiscal 2020, a 3-percent increase from current levels, and $740.5 billion in 2021.

Mrs. Pelosi told Democratic colleagues in a letter that the deal “will invest in middle class priorities that advance the health, financial security and well-being of the American people and enhance our national security.”

She also said the deal brings “stronger parity” for the Democratic side, saying that non-defense spending will exceed defense spending by $10 billion over the next two years.

“It also means Democrats have secured an increase of more than $100 billion in funding for domestic priorities since President Trump took office,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “It was essential that we reached agreement before the upcoming August” recess.

She urged Democrats to approve the bill and send it to the president’s desk “as soon as possible” to “avoid the damage of sequestration and ensure that we can continue to advance transformative progress ‘For The People.’ “

Mr. Kudlow, speaking on “Fox & Friends,” called the spending levels “manageable.”

“We never get the spending restraints that we’d like to get,” Mr. Kudlow said. “We need to restrain spending more, but you know, the numbers weren’t there, so Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi and others worked together. It’s the art of the possible. We did about as good as we can do, and there’s not going to be any debt default.”

Mr. Vought said the agreement will require Mrs. Pelosi to “surrender her leverage” on the debt limit.

“One of the most important things that we were concerned about when Nancy Pelosi and the radical Democrats took control of the House was that they would use the debt limit — which is important to be extended for the full faith and credit of our United States — to be used as a leverage point against this president,” he said. “We have been negotiating for five months, we’re now up against the deadline headed into the August recess, where we need the debt limit extended. We need to continue to rebuild the military, and at the same time, we’ve been able to both get Nancy Pelosi down from about $300 billion less than what she wanted to spend, and we’ve ensured that in terms of the riders, which is the big thing.”

He also said the agreement will continue to block any federal money being spent on abortion.

The National Taxpayers Union said Tuesday it will urge lawmakers to oppose the deal.

“This is a horrendous deal and a complete abdication of fiscal responsibility,” said NTU Executive Vice President Brandon Arnold. “Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer have completely outfoxed Republican negotiators by foisting hundreds of billions in debt-financed spending on American taxpayers while making virtually no pro-taxpayer concessions.”

Stephen Dinan contributed to this article.

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