Updated Feb 8, 2018 - Politics & Policy

Under GOP control, budget deal blows through spending caps

The massive bipartisan budget deal announced by Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer includes hundreds of billions of unpaid-for new spending, potentially ending an impasse over government funding but giving fiscal hawks heartburn.

Why this matters: This adds more new spending than any budget deals made under the Obama presidency (although the stimulus package passed during that time was very pricey). Yet politically, most saw this as the only way forward, reflecting both gridlock and the declining influence of fiscal conservatism in Congress.

Data: U.S. House of Representatives; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon / Axios

The numbers that matter: The deal adds $300-400 billion to the deficit over two years, and could ultimately add $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated.

What's in it: Aside from raising spending levels, the budget deal includes goodies for both parties, along with a few must-do items.

  • A slew of health care items, as reported by my colleague Sam Baker yesterday — including $6 billion in opioid and mental health funding and repeal of the Affordable Care Act's Independent Payment Advisory Board, a program included to control Medicare costs.
  • $20 billion of infrastructure spending.
  • Nearly $90 billion in disaster relief funding.
  • A one-year increase in the debt limit.
Republicans needed 9 Senate votes and they were expensive.
— Former Republican leadership aide

"Horrible. Bipartisanship at its worst," said Marc Goldwein of the CRFB. "It not only repeals the sequester — which was meant to spur fiscal reforms — but it reverses half the savings from the initial caps ... Where are all the fiscal hawks?"

Between the lines: Additional defense and domestic spending resonates much more with voters than fiscal responsibility. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker put it well: “The truth is, is that most people, if you ask them their top 10 concerns, nobody’s mentioning debt," he told me, adding that he's "struggling" with how to vote on the deal.

The bottom line: "It's a recognition of reality that was long overdue," a source close to McConnell told me. "Dems wouldn't budge on domestic, R's wouldn't budge on defense, Trump's given R's permission politically to deficit spend, and everybody is happy to put shutdowns behind them."

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