The top Republican architect of a U.S. budget agreement said he wanted to avoid the prospect of future government shutdowns after a 16-day closure in October hurt the economy.
“Government has to function, and we saw the specter of two possible government shutdowns in 2014, one in January and one in October,” Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican who is chairman of House Budget Committee, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It’s not good for the country. It adds more instability to the economy,” said Ryan, the Republican 2012 vice presidential nominee on the ticket headed by Mitt Romney.
The budget deal, likely to win Senate approval this week following House passage on Dec. 12, would avoid a partial government shutdown when spending authority expires Jan. 15. It funds the government for the 2014 fiscal year that began Oct.1 and for the 2015 fiscal year.
The agreement lessens the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration by $40 billion in the 2014 budget and by $20 billion in fiscal 2015. It sets spending at about $1.01 trillion for this fiscal year, higher than the $967 billion required in a 2011 deal that set sequestration in place.
The deal would cut the deficit by $23 billion and cancel planned cuts to doctors’ Medicare reimbursement rates. It doesn’t extend emergency benefits for 1.3 million unemployed workers.
“Getting a budget agreement that reduces the deficit without raising taxes and prevents two government shutdowns from occurring in 2014, in my opinion, is the right thing to do and it’s a good thing to do,” Ryan said on NBC.
A 16-day partial shutdown starting Oct. 1 resulted from an impasse between President Barack Obama and Republicans who demanded changes to his 2010 health-care law as a condition for funding government operations. The shutdown took at least $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, according to Standard & Poor’s.
The budget agreement was crafted by a bipartisan committee led by Ryan and Senator Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat.
“One of the things we had to learn to do is to listen to each other and to respect each other and to trust each other,” Murray, who leads the Senate Budget Committee, said on the NBC program.
Some of Ryan’s fellow Republicans balked at the deal because of the additional spending it allows by easing the automatic cuts. Still, the Republican-controlled House passed the accord 322-94, with majority support from both parties. The Democratic-led Senate will begin considering the measure on Dec. 17, with a final vote later in the week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada predicted strong Democratic support for the budget deal.
“We’ll get our votes,” Reid said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. “It would be suicide if the Republicans didn’t pass it,” Reid said.
The White House supports the bill, according to a statement of administration policy released Dec. 11.
Republicans will seek additional concessions from Democrats in order to extend the nation’s borrowing ceiling, Ryan also said today. The debt limit, which was $16.7 trillion, was suspended until Feb. 7, 2014, as part of the October deal to end the partial the federal shutdown. After that, the Treasury Department will be able to use so-called extraordinary measures to stave off default, such as suspending investments of a retirement fund.
Ryan said on “Fox News Sunday” that Republicans will meet following the holidays to determine what they’ll seek in exchange for raising the ceiling.
Ryan added there will be no so-called grand bargain, or $1 trillion to $4 trillion deal on taxes and spending that previous budget negotiators have sought, as long as Obama is president and the Senate is controlled by Democrats.
“I don’t think with this president or this Senate we are going to have something like that,” Ryan said on Fox. “We need to win elections” to fix the country’s fiscal problems, he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Greg Giroux in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org