Corker Agrees to Release Budget Agreement for Votes

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) makes opening remarks during a committee markup meeting on the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran April 14, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

A Republican U.S. senator agreed to let his party release its budget proposal for votes in both chambers of Congress, after holding up the measure for more than a day on grounds a spending-cut provision didn’t go far enough.

“There is no question this budget is far from perfect, but it is some progress,” Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee said in a statement Wednesday, saying he had endorsed the measure. A day earlier, he told reporters he was withholding support for releasing the unified House-Senate budget plan, which leaders of both chambers want to pass this week.

The non-binding budget proposal is intended to reach balance in nine years. It sets out the Republican Party’s priorities by calling for more than $5 trillion in spending cuts and no net tax increases. It raises defense spending in 2016 by boosting a war funds account far above President Barack Obama’s request.

Corker said Tuesday he wanted the budget to “rid itself of a lot of the gimmicks” that have been used to spend more money than taxpayers realize.

On Wednesday, he said, “I have had conversations on both sides of the Capitol laying out what I believe we need to do to prepare for next year’s budget process.”

No changes have been made in the spending-cut provision that drew Corker’s objections, said his spokeswoman Tara DiJulio.

Both chambers adopted their own versions of a budget plan last month and conferees have been working out the differences.

Discretionary Spending

At Corker’s urging, the Senate version barred appropriators from increasing discretionary spending by using money saved from mandatory spending. Eliminating the practice would cut discretionary spending by about $190 billion over a decade.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers sought to remove that provision from the final budget. The Kentucky Republican said in an interview that it would make his job of passing annual spending bills too difficult.

The budget proposal also would allow Republicans to bypass Democrats and send Obama legislation to revise, though not repeal, his landmark health-care law. The administration has said the 2010 Affordable Care Act has extended coverage to 16.4 million previously uninsured Americans.

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said Wednesday that his party would block spending bills based on the proposal.

‘Not Happen’

“The Republican budget isn’t going anywhere,” said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “If Republicans insist on moving appropriations bill based on that budget, it is a waste of time. It will not happen.”

The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto all 2016 spending bills based on the Republican budget plan because it doesn’t raise budget caps on domestic spending. The veto threat raises the possibility of a government shutdown on Oct. 1 if all sides can’t agree on a spending plan.

Rogers said in an interview that the 12 individual appropriations bills he is producing are not dead on arrival, even with the veto threat from the White House and Reid’s comments.

“That’s par for the course; This White House has threatened to veto every bill we have passed up here on appropriations,” he said.

Floor Action

The measure is eligible for House and Senate floor action two days after release. Earlier Tuesday, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California said the chamber planned to consider the plan Thursday. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, said he hoped his chamber would adopt it this week.

Corker could hold up the budget agreement because all 12 Senate Republican conferees’ votes were needed to approve it in the case of opposition by all 10 Democrats and independents.

The unified budget, S.Con.Res. 11, endorses using $96 billion in emergency war funds to evade a limit on defense spending, while keeping in place caps on domestic programs. Later this week, the House plans to pass its first set of 2016 spending bills based on this plan, which Democrats have called a gimmick.

Obama has said he wants a deal that raises both defense and non-defense limits.

A budget document is typically little more than an aspirational framework for spending. The most recent unified budget plan was enacted for fiscal 2010 when Democrats controlled both chambers.

The appropriations bills due at the Oct. 1 start of each fiscal year set the actual spending details for agencies and government functions.

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