- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2019

The House approved new budget limits Thursday, surging spending and debt over the next two years — though the vote showed a growing rebellion among Republicans over surging deficits and President Trump’s willingness to sign hefty funding increases.

Mr. Trump had pleaded with conservatives to back him and vote for the bill, which his top lieutenants had negotiated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, but it was Democrats who delivered the bulk of the votes to pass the measure.

The deal includes increases for both defense and domestic spending, though the domestic side grows slightly faster, Democrats crowed. And having the debt deal in place should lower the risk of another government shutdown over the next 24 months.

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“This is about paying for what we have invested in already,” said Mrs. Pelosi, who led her troops to an overwhelming show of support.

The final vote tally was 284-149, with more than 90% of Democrats backing it. More than two-thirds of Republicans defied Mr. Trump and opposed the bill.

The legislation still needs approval of the Senate next week, but it is expected to pass.

Mr. Trump has said he will sign it, and he begged Republicans to vote for it. He said it would help the Pentagon and veterans, who combined will get a majority of the additional spending.

“I am totally with you!” Mr. Trump tweeted.

But rank-and-file Republicans who usually leap to the president’s defense begged off this time.

“Our nation is more than $22 trillion in debt and simply cannot afford reckless measures like this one,” said Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a large caucus of conservatives.

He said he didn’t blame Mr. Trump for the bad terms of the deal and instead fingered Democrats, who refused Republican efforts to couple further spending with cuts elsewhere, looking to reduce the impact on the deficit.

Without a deal, lawmakers were looking at having to cut defense spending by 11% and domestic spending by 9% under budget caps imposed by the 2011 debt deal reached by President Obama and House Republicans.

This week’s deal, reached by a Republican president and a Democratic House, will instead mean spending increases, with $22 billion for defense and $27 billion for nondefense discretionary programs in the 2020 budget.

As part of the deal, the federal debt limit is suspended through July 2021, six months into the next presidential administration.

With the top-line spending numbers in hand, the House and Senate appropriations committees can now write the dozen bills needed each year to carry out the spending.

A key part of the deal was a statement of principles from the top Democrat and Republican in each chamber. They agreed to forgo “poison pill” add-ons or other policy amendments without the approval of all four leaders as lawmakers write those 12 spending bills.

That marks a surrender for Democrats, who cannot attempt to use the process to expand taxpayer funding for abortions, or to limit the president’s executive actions on immigration, the environment or other regulatory matters.

Republican leaders cited that as a major reason to back the bill.

Budget watchdogs said the deal could be the worst in history.

The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget calculated that it would lead to $1.7 trillion in new debt over the next decade. Combined with other legislation signed over the past two years, it means Mr. Trump has overseen $4.1 trillion in additional debt.

Rep. Steve Womack of Arkansas, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, acknowledged the debt but said this deal isn’t the driving force. He said when he took office a decade ago, discretionary spending was at $1.3 trillion, and under the latest deal it will be at $1.4 trillion next year.

Instead, he said, the problem is entitlement spending such as Social Security and Medicare, which is set automatically and rises along with the population and its needs. It’s not part of the discretionary budget Congress controls in the annual spending bills.

He said conversations on those issues may come later, but the spending deal should pass.

“Let’s take the chaos off the table, let’s pass this deal, and then maybe, maybe, we can elevate the conversation and talk about the real drivers of the deficit and the debt,” he said.

Mr. Trump, though, has shown little inclination to tackle those programs, having campaigned on promises not to touch Social Security.

Democrats say they have little appetite to cut back on that spending after Republicans pushed through tax cuts in 2017 without finding offsets to pay for them.

Democrats showed remarkable unity Thursday. Their 219 votes would have been enough to pass it without the help of any Republicans.

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