Senate Republicans Open to Budget Deal to Lift Spending Caps

With much of Capitol Hill focused on averting a government shutdown next Thursday, Senate Republicans say it is likely Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will be willing to negotiate increases in the Budget Control Act caps on defense and non-defense spending as part of a year-end deal that also incorporates the temporary and permanent extension of tax breaks and, possibly, extends the nation’s debt ceiling.

“You never know. Miracles sometimes happen at the end of the year,” Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said this week.

Any talks on relaxing the spending caps or other year-end business will wait, however, until lawmakers complete work on a continuing resolution to fund the government starting Oct. 1, reported CQ.

Defense hawks’ support for increased Pentagon spending are raising pressure for a fiscal compromise covering multiple issues, similar to the fiscal cliff deal, said Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“It’s becoming more and more apparent that we may have to make some changes in the budget caps. The Budget Control Act has done a very good job of holding down spending. But we’ve got a situation now where Republicans want more spending for defense and the president and the Democrats want more for non-defense. So that suggests we may have a negotiation about that between now and the end of the year,” said Alexander.

With conservatives opposed to raising the discretionary spending caps, it is by no means certain that a deal will be reached by the end of the year, but for the first time since the two-year budget agreement reached in 2013, Republicans on at least one side of the Capitol appear open to finding a compromise.  

“There’s talk about doing that. I haven’t heard any decisions. There’s just kind of a supposition that it’s going to happen,” said Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Dan Cohen
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