House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) signaled his support for the budget agreement brokered by the congressional conference committee and lashed out at outside conservative groups that have rallied against the plan, during a Wednesday morning press conference on Capitol Hill.
The Speaker — who called the budget plan “a positive step forward” after it was released on Tuesday — did not hide his displeasure with groups like Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action, which have been warning Republicans to oppose the budget deal since before it was even officially announced on Tuesday evening.
“They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” Boehner said Wednesday. “This is ridiculous. Listen, if you’re for more deficit reduction, you’re for this agreement.”
The deal, which would provide $63 billion in relief from across-the-board sequester cuts in exchange for $85 billion in targeted spending cuts and new fees, would cut about $22 billion from the deficit — a significant amount that still falls far short of most Republicans’ goal.
“In the short run, this budget also cancels earlier spending reductions, instead of making some tough decisions about how to tackle our long-term fiscal challenges caused by runaway Washington spending,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), in remarks that encapsulate much of the Republican grumbling over the deal.
For their part, congressional Democrats are also not thrilled at the compromise deal that does not raise taxes or extend emergency unemployment compensation. At a Democratic press conference on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that failing to extend unemployment benefits was “absolutely unconscionable.”
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), the House Democrats’ chief negotiator in the conference, echoed Pelosi’s statement — but signaled that his caucus could support the deal anyway.
“This would not be the deal that any of us would’ve written,” the ranking budget committee member said. “It’s the product of a compromise and again, just speaking to the confines of the budget deal itself and not this overall package that may come with the rule, again, I think on merit this is better than the alternative.”
The House could vote on the deal as early as Thursday evening.
UPDATE: As Talking Points Memo reports, some conservative groups have forcefully responded to Boehner’s charge.
“Speaker Boehner’s real problem here isn’t with conservative groups like FreedomWorks, it’s with millions of individual Americans who vote Republican because they were told the GOP was the party of small government and fiscal responsibility,” FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe said in a statement. FreedomWorks is one of the groups that urged Republicans to vote against the plan, just hours after it was announced.
“Once again Republicans, led by John Boehner, are working with Democrats to increase spending yet again on the taxpayers’ tab while promising ‘savings’ down the road,” he added. “We know how this movie ends. How can leadership credibly promise spending cuts later, after agreeing to a plan that rolls back the sequester savings promised two debt increases ago? There’s a predictable pattern here.”
Similarly, Heritage Action spokesman Dan Holler told Talking Points Memo, “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. Meanwhile, we’ll continue fighting to achieve our goal, which is create an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity and civil society flourish.”