U.S. Rep. Tom Reed is giving his tentative support to a budget deal that would head off a potential government shutdown and extend the federal debt ceiling for the next two years.
WASHINGTON | U.S. Rep. Tom Reed is giving his tentative support to a budget deal that would head off a potential government shutdown and extend the federal debt ceiling for the next two years.
Reed, R-Corning, said Tuesday on a conference call with reporters he was leaning toward supporting the plan “absent any surprises” that might come up in reviewing the proposal.
The agreement is expected to come up for a vote Wednesday, ahead of a Nov. 3 deadline to pass a debt ceiling increase.
In his last days as House speaker, John Boehner has been intent on getting the measure through Congress. The deal would take budget showdowns off the table until after the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, a potential boon to the eventual GOP nominee and incumbents facing tough reelection fights.
"The agreement isn't perfect by any means, but the alternative was a clean debt limit increase" without any entitlement reform or money for troops, Boehner told reporters. "So this is a good deal."
The Ohio Republican later said his goal was to "clean out the barn" for the next speaker. "I've done my best to clean it up," he said.
The two-year pact would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies $80 billion in relief from budget constraints in exchange for cuts elsewhere in the budget. It would also head off a looming increase in Medicare premiums.
The plan includes a short-term fix for the Social Security disability program which would transfer funds from the main Social Security trust fund - something many conservatives including Reed have opposed - balanced against stricter enforcement to prevent fraud and abuse in the system.
Reed said overall, he’s happy with the solution on the disability program.
“I think the reforms we’re going to get on the Social Security disability trust fund are significant,” Reed said. “They are going to allow us to implement some changes that will lead to the long-term solvency of the trust fund.”
One of the areas where the plan seeks savings is in the federal crop insurance program.
Reed said while he’s concerned in principle about bringing agriculture policy into the deal, he doesn’t think the changes will hurt farmers.
“The reforms they’re talking about primarily in the reinsurance area,” he said.
Reinsurance is an agreement where the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation underwrites policies written by insurers.
The White House said Tuesday it was "promising" that Democrats and Republicans will come together to reach an agreement that would "break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making." Capitol Hill Democrats are likely to solidly support the agreement, although it gives greater budget relief to the Pentagon than it does domestic programs.
The legislation would suspend the current $18.1 trillion debt limit through March 2017. The budget portion would increase the current "caps" on total agency spending by $50 billion in 2016 and $30 billion in 2017, offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. And it would permit about $16 billion to be added on top of that in 2016, classified as war funding, with a comparable boost in 2017.
Among the proposed spending cuts are curbs on Medicare payments for outpatient services provided by hospitals that have taken over doctors' practices, and an extension of a 2 percentage-point cut in Medicare payments to doctors through the end of a 10-year budget.
The vote on the deal will come within moments of another vote -- to replace Boehner, who will leave both the speakership and the House.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, who is also a former Republican vice presidential candidate, has emerged as Boehner’s likely successor.
“I think the next Speaker of the House clearly will be Paul Ryan,” Reed said. “(He) has the means to do well in that position.”
Since an outline of the proposed deal has become public, Ryan has criticized it, saying the process that led to the agreement “stinks.”
Reed said Ryan’s promise of a move back to “regular order” and fewer last-minute make-or-break deals is a “breath of fresh air” that he looks forward to.
- Material from The Associated Press was used in this story.