- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
It’s not the elusive “grand bargain.”
But Washington may have solved almost all of its budget problems through the 2016 presidential election.
Congressional leaders and the White House came to tentative terms on a major budget deal in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, one that could stave off many of the fiscal land mines remaining through next year’s election and beyond.
Its passage is far from certain, but it will most likely be the final act for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) before he leaves Congress at the end of the week and hands over the role to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).
The agreement, which would last for two years, comes just days before Congress needed to raise the nation’s debt ceiling to prevent a potential default on the country’s obligations, according to the Treasury Department. And it comes a little more than a month before another potential government-shutdown showdown.
The deal could run into resistance from both parties’ hard-line factions – conservatives are already grumbling about the accord, while some Democrats could push back against changes to Medicare and Social Security.
“We anticipate fierce resistance from conservative Republicans, but John Boehner knows how to get a deal done,” said Greg Valliere, the chief global strategist at Horizon Investments. “His parting gift to Paul Ryan will be a package that should get just enough support from GOP lawmakers while winning a majority from Democrats. Boehner is loathed on the right, but what does he care? He’s just a few days away from retirement.”
Here’s a quick look at some of what’s included in the deal:
- It would raise spending levels in equal amounts in defense and nondefense areas and avert a potential government shutdown in December. Those spending increases would be offset through spending cuts. It would tackle a glitch that could leave many seniors with Medicare premium hikes next year.
- The accord would cut spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits. Beneficiaries of the Social Security disability system face steep cuts next year unless Congress acts, as the fund is set to run dry. A source familiar with the negotiations told Business Insider that the deal would include “long-term entitlement reforms” to the Social Security disability program. The source said it would save $168 billion in long-term spending. Attached to the deal would be separate legislation to raise the nation’s debt limit well past the 2016 election, through March 2017. The Treasury has warned that Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling by November 3 to avoid a potential first-ever default.
Congress could vote on the bill as soon as Wednesday. But the bill was already running into opposition from some conservatives among the influential House Freedom Caucus. Two persuasive conservative groups, Heritage Action and Club for Growth, also said they would oppose the legislation.
“This budget and debt deal is being brokered by a lame-duck speaker and a lame-duck president,” Heritage Action CEO Michael A. Needham and Club for Growth president David McIntosh said in a joint statement.
“It represents the very worst of Washington – a last-minute deal that increases spending and debt under the auspices of fiscal responsibility. If this deal moves forward, it will undermine efforts to unite the party by those promising to advance serious policy reforms.”