Paul Ryan And Patty Murray Reach Budget Deal, But Can It Pass Congress?

A budget deal has been reached, now it has to get through both Chambers of Congress.


As part of the agreement that brought the sixteen day Federal Government shutdown to an end in mid-October, Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, along with their fellow members of the Budget Committees in the House and the Senate were given the task of reaching a budget deal no later than December 13th, about one month before the Continuing Resolution that was also passed at that time is set to expire. Since then, the resulting Conference Committee, which largely seemed to have been following the lead of their respective Chairs and Ranking Members, has been deep in negotiations over the outlines of a budget that would have at least a snowball’s chance of making it through Congress. Last night, just in time for the nightly network news broadcasts, Ryan and Murray took to a podium at the Capitol to announce that they had indeed reached a deal, but the details of that deal make one wonder if it might his a snag in the House or the Senate:

WASHINGTON — House and Senate budget negotiators reached agreement Tuesday on a budget deal that would raise military and domestic spending over the next two years, shifting the pain of across-the-board cuts to other programs over the coming decade and raising fees on airline tickets to pay for airport security.

The deal, while modest in scope, amounts to a cease-fire in the budget wars that have debilitated Washington since 2011 and gives lawmakers breathing room to try to address the real drivers of federal spending — health care and entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security — and to reshape the tax code.

For a Capitol used to paralyzing partisan gridlock, the accord between Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Senator Patty Murray of Washington, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee, was a reminder that even fierce political combatants can find common ground. Mr. Ryan praised the deal in the most elementary terms as a way to “get our government functioning at its very basic levels.”

Both negotiators promised an end to uncertainty and the lurching from crisis to crisis, at least for a year. But both parties sought to preserve their ability to force another showdown over fiscal matters; the government’s statutory borrowing authority will lapse as early as March, another potential crisis.

The budget deal also allows Republicans to remain focused on attacks on the health care law. And party members who are thought to have White House ambitions — like Mr. Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida — are likely to use this agreement, and future fights over money, to further their prospects in 2016.

Still, the announcement drew praise from House Republican leaders, who are likely to put it to a vote by Thursday.

“While modest in scale, this agreement represents a positive step forward by replacing one-time spending cuts with permanent reforms to mandatory spending programs that will produce real, lasting savings,” Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said in a statement.

President Obama also weighed in. “This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like — and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise,” he said. “But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of shortsighted, crisis-driven decision making to get this done.”

The proposal quickly drew fire from conservatives who saw it as a retreat from earlier spending cuts and a betrayal by senior Republicans. Some excoriated Mr. Ryan, the party’s vice-presidential nominee in 2012, for rolling back immediate spending cuts in exchange for promised savings that may never materialize.

“We need a government with less debt and an economy with more good paying jobs, and this budget fails to accomplish both goals, making it harder for more Americans to achieve the American dream,” Mr. Rubio said. “Instead, this budget continues Washington’s irresponsible budgeting decisions by spending more money than the government takes in and placing additional financial burdens on everyday Americans.”

The agreement, which would finance the government through Sept. 30, 2015, would eliminate about $63 billion in across-the-board domestic and military cuts. But it would provide $23 billion in deficit reduction by extending a 2 percent cut to Medicare providers through 2023, two years beyond the cuts set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.


Under the agreement, military and domestic spending for the current fiscal year that is under the annual discretion of Congress would rise to $1.012 trillion, from the $967 billion level it would hit if sequestration spending cuts were imposed next month. Spending would inch up to $1.014 trillion in the 2015 fiscal year.

The figure for this year is about halfway between the $1.058 trillion passed by the Senate this spring and the $967 billion approved by the House.

Military spending would be set at $520.5 billion this fiscal year, while domestic programs would get $491.8 billion. The $63 billion increase over the next two years would be spread evenly between Pentagon and domestic spending, nearly erasing the impact of sequestration on the military. Domestic programs would fare particularly well because the 2 percent cut to Medicare health providers would be kept in place, alleviating cuts to programs like health research, education and Head Start.

The increase would be paid for in part with higher airline fees that underwrite airport security. Higher contributions from federal workers to their pensions would save about $6 billion. Military pensions would see slower cost-of-living increases, a $6 billion savings over 10 years. Private companies would pay more into the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.

States receiving mineral revenue payments would have to help defray the costs of managing the mineral leases, saving $415 million over 10 years. Deepwater, natural gas and other petroleum research programs would end.

Democrats gave up their demand that the deal extend unemployment benefits that expire at the end of the month, but they hope to press for an extension in a separate measure.

For those interested in a more detailed listing of what’s contained in the deal, Suzy Khimm does a good job of summarizing it over at Wonkblog. Leaving the details aside for the moment, though, the real question here is the likelihood of being about to get this budget through Congress, preferably before Friday when the House of Representatives is scheduled to be in session for the last day before going on holiday break. As we learned during the budget deal, that depends on several factors, most notably the extent to which the most conservative members of the House GOP caucus are going to oppose the deal, and whether or not the House GOP Leadership will be willing to put the deal on the floor even if they’re unsure that it will garner a majority of GOP votes, thus violating the so-called, although somewhat mythical, “Hastert Rule.” As noted above, the immediate reaction from many on the right has been largely negative, thanks in no small part to the extent to which the deal busts through the sequester cuts that had been negotiated as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011:

Opponents of the proposal include the anti-tax Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, Americans For Prosperity, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.).

The plan, which was unveiled Tuesday, would fund the federal government through the fall of 2015. It would do away with half of the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration and replace them with savings from other programs.

“This proposal swaps debt reduction today and next year, for the dubious promise of debt reduction a decade from now,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola.

In a statement opposing the plan, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) drew from the “Popeye” cartoon, saying there is a “recurring theme in Washington budget negotiations. It’s I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

Tim Phillips, the head of Americans for Prosperity, decried the proposed end of spending levels imposed by sequestration.

“The American people remember hard-won bipartisan spending limits set by the sequester and are not pleased to see their conservative representatives so easily go back on their word to rein in government over-spending,” he said.

On the campaign trail, some Republican candidates running to the right of Senate incumbents started taking aim at the plan even before it was officially released.

Republican Matt Bevin, who is running to the right of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said the plan would allow Washington to “continue its reckless spending.” State Sen. Chris McDaniel (R), who is challenging Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), called the plan a “complete abdication of Washington’s governing responsibility.” Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts’s primary opponent Milton Wolf urged him to vote against the Ryan-Murray plan.

Notwithstanding comments like these, which are sure to continue as the week goes on, the GOP leadership in the House seems determined to go forward with a vote on the deal in the House this week:

House Republicans are planning a Thursday vote on a bipartisan budget deal, one of their last legislative acts before leaving Washington for the rest of 2013.

Despite some conservative opposition inside and outside the Capitol, Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are confident they will secure enough votes from House Republicans to pass the bill crafted by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). That would set up a final in the Senate and clear it for President Barack Obama’s signature, temporarily ending the budget wars that have consumed Washington for much of the last two years.

Ryan, who conservatives generally revere, is making the case to his colleagues that this agreement, which sets spending levels and replaces across-the-board spending cuts for two years, is better than allowing a second round of sequester cuts to take effect in early 2014.

“By having a budget agreement that does not raise taxes, that does reduce the deficit and produces some certainty and prevents a government shutdown, we think is a good agreement,” Ryan (R-Wis.) told reporters after a closed meeting Wednesday morning. Ryan added that he feels “good” about how his House colleagues reacted to the agreement.

Additionally, Speaker John Boehner was unusually blunt in responding to the conservative groups that have come out against the deal, calling their criticisms ridiculous:

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) lit into outside conservative groups like Heritage Action and FreedomWorks on Wednesday morning foropposing the just-negotiated budget deal before they even knew the details.

“You mean the groups that came out and opposed it before they ever saw it?” Boehner said to a journalist who had asked him about the groups’ opposition. “They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals. This is ridiculous.”

Given the fact that there were groups and politicians taking to Twitter and Facebook criticizing the deal last night before its details had even been posted on the web sites of the respective Budget Committees, Boehner’s criticism is pretty accurate. That kind of reaction indicates that, for many groups, it isn’t about being against this specific deal, it’s about being against any deal at all unless it includes absolutely everything that they want, which of course is impossible in an era when one half of Congress and the White House are controlled by the opposition party. This is the same myopic partisanship that led to the shutdown is October, of course, and one would have thought that these people would have learned their lesson. Of course, it’s possible that all these pronouncements are little more than fodder for the Tea Party masses and that it won’t be backed up by any kind of significant effort to block a deal from going forward. Indeed, that seems to be the implication of what Molly Ball is reporting at The Atlantic:

[C]onservatives seemed resigned to the agreement. Ryan and Speaker John Boehner had briefed the conference on it earlier in the day, and no revolt seemed to be brewing. “This bill was designed to pass with bipartisan support in the House,” said Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “It was not designed to get most of the people on this dais.” The far right and far left could cast their protest votes against it, but with the bulk of both parties supporting it, it would easily pass. The agreement is expected to come to the floor of the House on Thursday.

Reporters at the briefing also wanted to know if Ryan, by making this deal, would be seen as having sold out the right. The former vice-presidential nominee had previously been known for pushing a big-idea budget plan centered around reforming Medicare. The budget deal was a clear bid by Ryan to temper his ideological profile and be seen as a pragmatist with leadership qualities. But would teaming up with Murray get him branded a sellout by the conservative grassroots, the way Rubio was for pushing immigration reform?

His conservative colleagues rebuffed that notion, extolling Ryan’s conservative credibility and saying he’d done the best he could in difficult circumstances. “He got the best deal he could, but he was up against a liberal-controlled Senate that completely disregarded the law of the land,” said Representative Andy Harris. “This will not diminish his standing in any way,” added Representative Vicky Hartzler, who said it was only out of respect for Ryan that she hadn’t ruled out voting for the deal. “He has been a marvelous soldier in coming to this agreement.”

The conservatives’ tone was downcast: They seemed to know they’d been beaten. “I suspect that in the next couple of weeks you will see the standing of Republicans go down, because once again we are making empty promises to the American people,” Labrador said. “Congress has an 8 or 9 percent favorable rating because we continue to spend. We continue to make promises to the American people that we don’t keep.”

To cut through all the rhetoric, it seems obvious from what’s quoted above that conservatives in the House, and the Senate, know that they overplayed their hand in September and October and that the rest of their party is not going to back another effort to shut the government down over whatever disagreements they may have with the deal that Ryan and Murray have reached here. They’ll make their speeches, of course, and many of them will vote against the deal. Both of those things will give them the record they want to run on in 2014, which is obviously important to them. However, it seems unlikely that there are going to be enough hardcore conservatives in either chamber of Congress to block the bill from passing. Of course, we won’t know that until the votes are taken later this week, so one should always stay tuned. However, as it stands, this budget deal, as imperfect as it is, will pass in enough time for Congress to go home for the holidays believing that it has accomplished something. Then, when they return, they’ll have to figure out a way to turn this budget outline into appropriations bills for each of the governments departments and, of course, deal with the issue of the Debt Ceiling, which we’re scheduled to hit yet again some time by mid-February.

I suppose its noteworthy that Congress has accomplished something here and actually seems to be close to passing a budget for the first time in years rather than relying upon Continuing Resolutions. Given that this is supposed to be one of their basic functions, though, I’m not sure they should be congratulated for doing what they ought to have been doing all along.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    As Yglesias points out…we can cut tax rates to zero…if we are going to start calling them fees.
    At least Boehner seems to have hit a tipping point with the people that have been pulling his puppet strings since the November ’11 mid-terms.
    But your boyfriend Rand is already pushing against this itsy-bitsy-teeny-weenie deal.

  2. grumpy realist says:

    Also probably a lot of the big money business types took them aside and said, Look–if you even think of trying to pull the same dumbass stuff you did in September, we’re donating to your Democratic challenger. Settle down and start governing like an adult.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    Murray should have insisted on a complete sequester reversal for programs for the needy but I suppose the armaments makers have convincing argument$ for Reps and Dems, share and share alike.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    A note on grammar. The WAPO piece you list states,” the anti-tax Club for Growth, Heritage Action for America, Americans For Prosperity…” which is poor usage. It should read, “” the anti-tax Club for Growth (sic), Heritage Action for America, Americans For Prosperity (sic)…” When speaking, or writing informally, it is acceptable to use the more colloquial “…so called Club for Growth…” or “misnamed Americans for Prosperity”.

  5. Todd says:

    I’m optimistic that this deal will pass, and I hope it does. This is despite the fact that two of the “revenue raisers” will potentially affect me personally.

    I will definitely fall into the “younger military retiree” group, so will see smaller than expected annual cost-of-living increases. Plus, as an about to be newly hired civil servant, whether my official hire date comes through this month, or they drag their feet into January, will determine whether or not I have to contribute the extra 1.3% towards that pension.

    It’s all good though. Compared to sequestration, I’ll gladly give up a little bit to see a deal happen.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Upvote purely for “boyfriend” snark.

  7. de stijl says:

    “He got the best deal he could, but he was up against a liberal-controlled Senate that completely disregarded the law of the land,” said Representative Andy Harris.

    What is he talking about? What law of the land did the Senate disregard?

    BTW – Good piece, Doug. Thorough.

  8. MarkedMan says:

    The budget deal will pass if and only if Boehner allows the bill to pass with a minority majority. The current house Republican majority are simply incapable of governing. Full Stop.

  9. michael reynolds says:

    It’ll be interesting to see where Fox News comes down. If Fox backs Boehner, Limbaugh is marginalized. That’s the real battlefield. Will Fox and Limbaugh remain united? Will they turn against each other?

  10. I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great.
    I don’t know who you are but definitely you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers!

  11. DrDaveT says:

    Nice article, but I wish you wouldn’t refer to Cruz and Paul and their ilk as “more conservative”. Their extremism has nothing to do with conservative principles; it’s along a different axis entirely.

  12. Tyrell says:

    Where is tax reform? What of the flat tax? How about reorganization of government? Do we really need agencies such as these? Federal Tricycle Authority, Office of Civil War Benefits, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Animal Husbandry, Bureau of Weights and Measures.
    How can we survive without those agencies?

  13. jukeboxgrad says:


    The budget deal will pass if and only if Boehner allows the bill to pass with a minority majority.

    Exactly. The pivotal figure is Boehner. What’s different this time is that Boehner is making no pretense of wanting to stick to the ‘Hastert rule.’ So the kamikaze caucus is going to shake their little fists and stamp their little feet, just like always, but this time Boehner is not going to indulge them the way he used to. He seems to be done with that.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Tyrell: The Flat tax? Equating the Flat tax with tax reform is like equating Mars with Marzipan. The flat tax is a change in tax rates in order to reduce taxes on the wealthy and increase them on the middle and lower class. Espousing the Flat tax is exactly equivalent to saying “the rich pay too much taxes and the middle class and poor do not pay enough”. It does exactly zero to reduce the complexity of the tax system or eliminate loopholes. It does not change any tax rate except for the payroll tax. Unless you know a lot of millionaires virtually everyone you know would pay significantly more under a flat tax then under the current system. The so called simplification consists of replacing one look up table at the back of the 1040 form with another.

    And anyone who questions whether the Weights and Measures work is necessary – well, I don’t even know what to say to that. I don’t know what the Federal Tricycle Authority is, but couldn’t find it on the google and I suspect it doesn’t exist. Office of Consumer Affairs? There isn’t a federal agency by that name but the FTC handles false and misleading advertising complaints, telephone scams, etc and the States’ individual OCA handle bogus contractors and the like. So yeah, we need them. Civil war benefits? Well, it appears that a) as of a year ago there were still two civil war pensions being paid and b) given that small number the special group for the Civil War was disbanded and they are handled via the basic infrastructure of the department of Veterans Affairs. Bureau of Animal Husbandry? It went out of existence 51 years ago. However, I hope that the US and State governments are still devoting resources to the regulation, oversight and encouragement of the multi-trillion dollar US livestock industry, and further that it is using funds to identify disease outbreaks and combat them.

    I suspect you are getting your news from the typical Republican leaning outlets and other right wing sites. These sources have no interest in the truth. They are perfect examples of the Frank definition of bullish*t. They will take truth, lies or melanges of both and spew them forth in whatever fashion they feel best promotes their agenda. When called on it they will simply start spewing other BS, happily returning to the original after a few days or months. This is all well and good when talking to other Repubs or right wingers, but you really shouldn’t bring this kind of stuff up in front of a crowd that actually cares about reality.

  15. James Pearce says:


    Where is tax reform? What of the flat tax? How about reorganization of government? Do we really need agencies such as these? Federal Tricycle Authority, Office of Civil War Benefits, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Animal Husbandry, Bureau of Weights and Measures.
    How can we survive without those agencies?

    These are questions best asked…and answered….in an election year. PLEASE do not make this budget the battleground on which we all these extraneous battles.

  16. superdestroyer says:

    Seeing how all of the progressives who ost at OTB are overjoyed for the budget deal, it should be obvious that it is a huge win for the Democrats. Spending cuts are pushed off so far into the future that no one expects them to ever occur. Boehner and the establishment Republicans are just raising the white flag, signaling that they are content to be a minor party that is only interest in privledge and pork barrel spending, and that the Republican establishment is happy to fade away in the future.

    Anyone who is interest is fiscal restraint and reudicng the number of people dependent on the government have no place to go in politics. The Democrats are signaling through Senators Brown and Warren that spending and entitlements will expand in the future and all the Republicans can promise is pork barreling spending and massive deficits for the foreseeable future.

    The future of politics is clear in the U.S.: fighting over entitlements, who gets them, and who pays for them. Maybe political scientist and wonks will begin to put real effort into identifying the clouts who will control politics in the future and stop focusing on the irrelevant Republicans.

  17. al-Ameda says:


    Where is tax reform? What of the flat tax? How about reorganization of government? Do we really need agencies such as these? Federal Tricycle Authority, Office of Civil War Benefits, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Animal Husbandry, Bureau of Weights and Measures.
    How can we survive without those agencies?

    Well, given that one side – the Republican Party – is not interested in negotiation of any reforms whatsoever, I’d say the likelihood that we’d get a serious negotiation on any of those items is null-and-void.

  18. JohnMcC says:
  19. superdestroyer says:


    David Weigel also concurs with the opinion that the budget deal is a total win for the Democrats. Speaker Boehner should resign from office but I suspect that he wants to deliver on immigration amnesty before the Republicans become irrelevant.

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