Boehner Defends His Budget Deal

But conservative members slam the two-year agreement as a gift to Obama.

WASHINGTON -- The presumed next speaker of the House, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), will get the "clean barn" that departing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised him, but there may also be a poisoned atmosphere.

That's after Boehner cut a deal with Democrats and more centrist-leaning Republicans to extend the nation's debt limit and pass a spending measure that lasts deep into 2017.

"I made clear a month ago when I announced that I was leaving, that I wanted to do my best to clean the barn," Boehner told reporters Tuesday in what was likely to be his final leadership news conference. "I didn't want [Ryan] to walk into a dirty barn full of you know what. I've done my best to try to clean it up."

Boehner cut the deal behind closed doors and dropped it on members Monday night, with the expectation that it could be passed by Wednesday.

The process angered many House Republicans, and Ryan himself told reporters that it "stinks" as he left the GOP caucus meeting Tuesday morning.

Boehner said Ryan was right.

"I'm in full agreement. It stinks. This is not the way to run a railroad," Boehner said, although he went on to note that Ryan and the rest of Congress will not have to fight over spending or the debt for nearly two years, clearing the way for other work to get done.

"There wasn't any choice," Boehner said. "It's certainly not the process I would want. Remember what the alternative was. The alternative was a clean debt ceiling or a default on our debt. It also [meant] that we got to Dec. 11, we could be facing another government shutdown. So when you look at the alternative, it starts to look a whole lot better."

"This'll make it easier for the entire Congress for the balance of this year, and it'll make next year a whole lot smoother for the Congress as well," Boehner said.

Conservatives were not happy.

"I identify more with one of my friends, who said, 'I didn't know when Boehner cleaned out the barn, I'd get so much manure on me,'" said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas).

But there's little they can do about it, since Boehner probably has somewhere around 100 of his members who will join with Democrats to pass the deal.

"This essentially gives the president an open path all the way to the next president of the United States, and if I were Barack Obama, I would be giddy with glee," said Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), a member of the conservative Freedom Caucus, said Boehner essentially made the next speaker's job moot.

"It looks like he tried to neuter Congress for the next 18 months because he doesn鈥檛 think we can govern," Mulvaney said. "If this passes, Congress might as well go home for the next 18 months, there is very little to do. I don鈥檛 think there is a single must-pass piece of legislation for the next two years."

Still, Boehner insisted Ryan would be in fine shape, and suggested he would likely have cut the same deal.

"Paul knows how to do this. If you go back two years ago, we had the Ryan-Murray budget agreement, which, frankly, if you look at this, isn't a whole lot different from what he and Sen. Murray put together two years ago," Boehner said, referring to the 2013 budget agreement Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) cut with Ryan when they were both chairs of their respective budget committees. "So he knows how to do this."

Other hard-line conservatives suggested that could be a problem.

"I won鈥檛 be voting for it. I think it鈥檚 Ryan-Murray 2.0," said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.). "It鈥檚 a continuation of the last deal Ryan cut."

But he also seemed to agree the deal cleaned the barn.

"I think it was a precondition of [Ryan's] candidacy for speaker. It鈥檚 a little coincidental it鈥檚 going to pass the day before he becomes speaker and it was going to fall to him in December to bust the budget caps and now he can wash his hands of that," Massie said, referring to budget caps that were originally passed in 2011, which the current deal exceeds. "We will never have to wonder what he鈥檚 going to get in exchange for raising the debt limit because he never has to raise the debt limit."

Boehner said it did not bother him that his final piece of major legislation would depend on a majority of Democrats.

"It's going to pass with a bipartisan majority, and I'll be really happy," Boehner said.

Popular in the Community


What's Hot