Conservatives are voicing alarm over a Senate proposal announced Wednesday by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to increase existing statutory budget caps by $300 billion over the next two years.
“This budget deal is a betrayal of everything limited government conservatism stands for and I will be voting no,” Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.
The conservative House Freedom Caucus, an influential group of 30-some Republicans, announced its opposition to the plan Wednesday night.
“The House Freedom Caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years. We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do.”
One of its members, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md., voiced his concern about the cost of the proposal.
I am very concerned that not only does this deal increase non-defense discretionary spending by over $200B, it continues the accounting gimmick of classifying tens of billions of dollars of new spending as 'emergency' spending that doesn't even fall under the new budget caps.
— Rep. Andy Harris, MD (@RepAndyHarrisMD) February 7, 2018
And the Freedom Caucus’ former chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, called it a “bad, bad, bad” deal.
After learning scope of agreement, @Jim_Jordan calls the Senate deal “bad, bad, bad.”
— John R Parkinson (@jparkABC) February 7, 2018
Government funding runs out Thursday, and the two-year deal would give roughly $160 billion to the Pentagon, allocate $128 billion to nondefense programs, and give $80 billion to disaster relief.
“The bipartisan budget agreement is absolutely critical for our national security, disaster recovery, and other Republican priorities,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan. “It is the result of six months of efforts to secure funding for our military, and it will allow Congress to end the cycle of governing by stop-gap measure and move on to other important agenda items.”
In 2015, Ryan criticized a massive spending deal crafted by his predecessor, former Speaker John Boehner, with Senate leaders and President Barack Obama.
“This is not the way to do the people’s business,” Ryan said in October 2015 before he was elected speaker. “And under new management we are not going to do the people’s business this way. We are up against a deadline—that’s unfortunate. But going forward we can’t do the people’s business [this way]. As a conference we should’ve been meeting months ago to discuss these things to have a unified strategy going forward.”
The White House is also backing the latest spending plan despite conservative opposition. Defense Secretary James Mattis endorsed it Wednesday.
Secretary Mattis: "Today's congressional action will ensure our military can defend our way of life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms you and I enjoy to the next generation." pic.twitter.com/kW0gNb5M1p
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) February 7, 2018
Conservative grassroots groups, including Heritage Action for America, the lobbying affiliate of The Heritage Foundation, have vowed to oppose the plan.
Michael A. Needham, chief executive of Heritage Action, said in a statement that “today’s deal is fiscally irresponsible and creates serious long-term budget challenges. The deal, crafted by congressional leaders, also sets the stage for additional policy concessions, including a so-called gentlemen’s agreement to bail out Obamacare. It only serves as a reminder of just how out of touch Washington remains with the rest of the country.”
Citizens Against Government Waste, a spending watchdog organization, also came out against the plan.
“The 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps represent the last semblance of fiscal responsibility in Washington,” Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste, said in a statement. “Busting the caps by $300 billion represents a 14 percent annual spending increase over current levels, which is both outrageous and unnecessary, as well as a complete abdication of fiscal discipline and accountability.”
The Club for Growth issued a statement noting McConnell’s promise in 2011 that the “big government freight train” was slowing down. With this new deal, the group said, “McConnell and the GOP establishment want to speed up the big government freight train with the help of big spending liberals on the other side of the aisle.”
As if that’s not bad enough, this deal also includes $80+ billion in so-called disaster relief spending, cronyist tax extenders, an expansion of farm subsidies, and another suspension in the debt ceiling, conveniently timed to expire after the mid-term elections. Nowhere in this deal are the $54 billion in spending cuts outlined in President Trump’s budget. Instead, the big government freight train is running out of control.
Schumer, meanwhile, praised the plan, citing its provisions for disaster relief.
This budget deal also includes long-awaited disaster relief for TX, LA, FL, Puerto Rico & the USVI. This recovery aid could not come a moment too soon. @SenBillNelson worked so hard for both Florida & Puerto Rico relief, as did so many others in our caucus.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) February 7, 2018
This story was updated to include statements from the House Freedom Caucus and Club for Growth.