Boehner lashes out at conservative groups over budget deal
(CNN) — House Speaker John Boehner lashed out at grassroots conservative groups opposed to a compromise budget deal, accusing them on Wednesday of “using our members and using the American people for their own goals.”
The Speaker said their actions were “ridiculous” and noted some of them came out against the bipartisan budget agreement even before it was announced on Tuesday.
The measure struck by Republican House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan and his Senate counterpart, Democrat Patty Murray, aims to avert another shutdown like the one that closed the government for more than two weeks in October.
Many rank-and-file Republicans signaled they could back the deal and predicted it would pass the House on Thursday. The measure will likely need support from minority Democrats since some Republicans are expected to oppose it.
The Senate also must act on the plan, which the White House believes should be approved.
Deal aims to avert shutdown
The agreement sets government spending at $1.012 trillion for the current fiscal year that runs through September and $1.014 trillion for next year.
It would eliminate $45 billion from the next round of largely unpopular forced federal spending cuts — known as sequestration — that are set to hit in January and another $18 billion scheduled for 2015.
Overall, it proposes to save $85 billion and would reduce the deficit by more than $20 billion once the money spared from sequestration is factored in, budget leaders said.
Boehner’s comments to reporters were aimed at some of the same organizations that have effectively pressured House Republicans previously to not compromise on budget issues.
They include Americans for Prosperity, Club for Growth, Freedom Works, Heritage Action and the Koch brothers, GOP campaign financiers.
Boehner made similar comments questioning the motives of some of the groups at a closed-door meeting with all House Republicans to discuss the agreement.
Diminished impact apparent
The Speaker told members that “no one controls your voting card but you,” according to a GOP source in the meeting.
But with this deal, their impact appears to be diminished with signs of growing Republican support.
I’m not sure that the outside groups are going to be able to influence us,” said Rep. John Fleming, a conservative from Louisiana.
Fleming said conservative groups won’t be able to sway as many conservatives because so many like the idea of the deal returning Congress to what’s known as regular order — deliberating and passing bills the way they’re supposed to be done, instead of backroom deals amid crisis.
But Idaho GOP Rep Raul Labrador, a critic of the plan, responded to Boehner’s comments.
“What is it that groups said yesterday that is false today?” he asked.
Labrador touted his approval rating with Heritage Action at a Capitol Hill forum sponsored by the advocacy group that is growing in influence. He said anyone who suggests his vote is for sale “is sadly mistaken”
Dan Holler, a spokesman for Heritage Action, didn’t back down from his criticism of the budget deal.
“Over the next few days, lawmakers will have to explain to their constituents, many of whom are our members, what they’ve achieved by increasing spending, increasing taxes and offering up another round of promises waiting to be broken. That will be a really tough sell back home,” Holler said in a statement to CNN.
Ryan, the chief negotiator of the deal, gave what even opponents called a stellar closed-door presentation to fellow Republicans.
Top House Republican leaders also told their members they recognized some were disappointed with the proposal. But it met their test to continue reducing the deficit and was a good deal given the political limitations on Capitol Hill.
“It’s the best compromise you can get in divided government,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, agreeing with Ryan’s argument for supporting the deal.
Fleming, who tends to vote against any compromise of conservative principles on economic issues, said Ryan gave a convincing argument that, long term, this bipartisan deal begins to address excess spending Republicans rail against.
Rep. Matt Salmon, an Arizona Republican, told reporters he plans to vote “no” because he is disappointed this doesn’t do more to address the biggest contributors to the debt and deficit, like Medicare and Medicaid.
“It’s an incredibly small baby step,” said Salmon, conceding that the measure would ultimately pass.
Sequester cuts, security fee
Other Republicans will oppose it for other reasons, like the decision to ease the sequester or the proposal to increase the fee paid by airline passengers to help cover federal aviation security costs. Some see that as a tax hike.
Because of that GOP opposition, Democrats will have to join Republicans in order for the budget deal to pass.
Although Democrats have different problems with the budget agreement, several came out of their Wednesday meeting saying they, too, expect the proposal to pass before the House leaves town for the holidays this week.
“I’ll hold my nose and vote ‘yes,’” said Rep Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat.
He has federal workers in his suburban Washington-area district who would have to contribute more to their federal pensions as a result of the deal.
Many Democrats are also concerned the deal leaves out an extension of long-term unemployment benefits.