Budget Deal Isn't Guaranteed to Pass the House

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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The budget deal that Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray reached today will be a tough sell in the House of Representatives.

The leaders of the two congressional budget committees came to a handshake-agreement to set discretionary spending just above $1 trillion for the 2014 fiscal year, replacing close to half the across-the-board sequester cuts with less controversial spending reductions and revenue increases.

One problem for Democrats, and for the future of the deal, is the increase in pension costs for federal employees. That's because the Ryan-Murray deal, which could avoid a showdown and possible government shutdown over the budget next month, almost certainly will need a healthy majority of Democrats to win passage in the House. That won't be possible if it looks like federal employees are getting short-changed.

Ryan and Speaker John Boehner will have a considerable challenge persuading a large number of House Republicans to back the deal. The Tea Party-backed, anti-government, wing of the Republican House caucus opposes any measure that dilutes the cuts from sequestration. Boehner, who wants the vote completed quickly so the House can adjourn by the end of this week, will argue that, whatever its imperfections, a deal is better than another shutdown; the October shutdown was a political disaster for Republicans.

On the revenue side, the deal deletes some of the more politically sensitive cuts such as higher postal rates, replacing them with measures such as higher customs levies and airport-security fees.

Big ticket items, such as closing big tax loopholes or reining in some entitlements, never were considered seriously.

If any compromise can get through the House, Murray and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are confident they can secure its passage in the upper chamber.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at ahunt1@bloomberg.net