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Conservatives balk at proposed debt limit, budget deal

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 7/23/2019 Susan Ferrechio
Mike Johnson wearing a suit and tie © Provided by MediaDC: Washington Newspaper Publishing Company, Inc.

House Republicans won’t vote for a proposed bipartisan deal to suspend the nation’s borrowing limit until 2021 and raise spending caps by $320 billion over two years, a top GOP lawmaker said Monday.

“I have communicated consistently there will be a large number of conservatives in the House who will not be able to vote for the deal, if these are indeed the terms,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La.,head of the Republican Study Committee, told the Washington Examiner Monday.

Democrats and Republicans Monday were closing in on an accord to suspend the debt limit until July 31, 2021 and to bust federal spending caps by $320 billion over fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., are the primary negotiators, mostly sidelining House Republicans.

Pelosi and Mnuchin have talked by phone daily for the past week in an effort to secure a deal before Congress leaves for a month-long recess.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., didn’t mention the pending deal in his opening floor speech Monday but he has said he would bring a deal to the floor that President Trump approves.

According to sources close to the negotiations, Mnuchin has been keeping Trump “updated regularly.”

Trump described the talks Monday as “doing very well” on the debt limit and “pretty well” on a budget deal.

Johnson is dismayed.

He talked to the president by phone on Saturday and relayed his concerns over approving a massive federal spending increase without much effort to pay for it or curb spending in the future.

The current national debt tops $22 trillion.

The tentative accord includes $75 million in offsets, half of what the administration wanted.

“He certainly understands the sentiment and describes himself as a fiscal conservative,” Johnson said, detailing the call with Trump. “He’s been trying to hold the line in the negotiations. He was encouraging to me.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., doesn’t like the deal either, Johnson said.

A McCarthy spokesman did not respond to a request for a comment about the pending deal.

Republicans will be under pressure from conservative groups to oppose the deal.

“Congressional leadership continues to aggressively pursue spending agreements that propel our country toward bankruptcy and fiscal crisis,” David McIntosh, president of the fiscally conservative Club for Growth said in a statement. “President Trump will be running for reelection with an annual deficit over $1 trillion and without Congress having made any progress on America’s staggering national debt, which exceeds $22 trillion.”

But McCarthy’s leverage is limited.

House Democrats can pass a caps and debt limit measure with their own party if most of their caucus remain unified.

Pelosi said she hopes to vote on the measure by the end of the week, before the House departs for the August recess.

The Senate could easily pass the deal with bipartisan support, although GOP leaders have not commented on the measure yet and they control the floor agenda.

“I’ve not spoken to McConnell but from the reports we’ve been given, he’s not shown the same resolve we’ve shown on the House side,” Johnson said.

The deal spends far more than what Trump intended in his fiscal 2020 proposal, which called nearly $50 billion in domestic spending cuts.

The negotiations at one point included Trump’s acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, a former Tea Party-backed House Republican and fiscal hawk.

But after the negotiations stalled, Mnuchin, who is eager to raise the debt limit, took over the talks.

“A lot of people recognize the Mnuchin is a very different person than Mulvaney,” Johnson said.

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