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It's 'Not Great,' But Budget Deal Is Expected To Pass In The House

The U.S. Capitol earlier this week. i i
Jonathan Ernst /Reuters/Landov
The U.S. Capitol earlier this week.
Jonathan Ernst /Reuters/Landov

The House is expected to vote Thursday on the bipartisan deal that would set spending levels for the next two years, replace many of the indiscriminate "sequester" budget cuts and, in theory at least, take off the table one of the most partisan of the many partisan issues that have contributed to the gridlock in Washington.

NPR's Tamara Keith tells our Newscast desk that passage is expected but not certain. She adds that:

"Many have described the deal as not great, or not enough, but the best a Democratic senator [Patty Murray of Washington] and Republican congressman [Paul Ryan of Wisconsin] could hope to agree to in this divided Congress.

"The House GOP leadership is pushing hard for their members to support it. The Tea Party faction is largely opposed because they consider the fees it raises to be taxes and because there aren't enough immediate spending cuts.

"Still, many Republicans say they will vote yes. On the other side of the aisle, many Democrats are upset that the package doesn't extend jobless benefits for the unemployed. Democratic leaders in the House aren't telling their members how to vote, and some say they may vote no unless aid for the long-term unemployed is included."

Politico takes a look at how the deal has led to an interesting switch in roles among Republicans:

"For much of the past year, it's been the Senate GOP cutting bipartisan deals, whether it's been on immigration or to keep the government funded, only to see the House Republicans balk. House Republicans have long been critical of their Senate colleagues, arguing they compromise too often and are worried only about face-saving political votes.

"But on Wednesday, Republican senators up and down the line were balking. ...

"The reasons Senate Republicans oppose the deal are plentiful, but, at the most basic level, they have the luxury of nearly uniform opposition because they are in the minority.

"They know this deal will pass, since a handful of Senate GOP lawmakers favor it — it will easily clear the 60-vote threshold to beat a filibuster. So 'no' becomes the default position for many of them. Furthermore, Senate Republicans didn't buy in to the deal as their leadership was kept out of the loop during the talks."

The Hill picks up on that angle as well, examining the "rare split" between House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who supports the deal, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who does not.

According to USA Today, "the Senate is expected to vote on the package next week, and President Obama said Tuesday that he will sign it."

Update at 12:50 p.m. ET. Ryan Sees 'Some Semblance Of Bipartisanship'

Democrats have complained that the budget deal does not extend long-term jobless benefits for more than a million workers.

"This agreement wasn't about that," Rep. Paul Ryan tells NPR's Audie Cornish. "This agreement was [about] how to prevent a government shutdown and how to pay the bills."

Their conversation just took place; it'll air later today on All Things Considered.

Ryan also said that while it's not a substitute for a GOP-sponsored budget, the deal will allow Congress to "get some semblance of bipartisanship, get this government working at just a minimum, basic functioning level."

On criticism from fellow Republicans such as Matt Salmon of Arizona that the deal doesn't reform Medicare and Social Security programs, Ryan said:

"What Patty Murray and I decided was, if we require the other person to violate a core principle, then we're going to get nowhere and we'll just keep yelling at each other.

"So what we decided to do was look for areas of common ground, see where that lies, and put an agreement around that. And that's what this reflects.

"You know, the fact of the matter is, you don't get everything you want in a divided government."

Responding to the argument that Ryan's compromise discards Republicans' bargaining leverage by easing parts of the sequester, Ryan said, "I disagree with that, because 92 percent of the sequester remains intact."

He added, "We have lots of Republicans who are very worried about another round of cuts to the military, because all of the sequester cuts going forward were going to hit only the military."

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