Guns and Butter: Defense Hawks Try Renewed Push To Kill Spending Caps

By Published on April 21, 2015

Some Republicans are renewing the push to adjust spending caps by suggesting a crucial compromise with the White House and Senate Democrats.

The new proposal to adjust caps beyond the current $523 billion limit has gained enough momentum to earn the informal name of Ryan-Murray 2.0.

The name is a reference to a 2013 bipartisan deal reached by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray to loosen caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The deal dropped sequestration by $63 billion in 2014 and 2015, Politico reports.

Congress prioritized defense spending, but in order to gain support for the proposal, lawmakers included a limited funding increase for a handful of Democrat-supported programs.

President Barack Obama announced support for the deal in late 2013 and signed it into law on Dec. 26, 2013.

Two years later, the political dynamic doesn’t appear to have changed. Republicans remain divided between fiscal hawks and defense hawks, with the latter displaying full support of the Pentagon’s plea to remove caps. The White House, too, is interested in higher defense spending, but there’s a catch which threatens to bring the debate to exactly where it was in 2013.

Obama has stated he’ll veto any spending measures that give the military a boost without a corresponding increase for domestic programs supported by Democrats.

Just as in 2013, support from both the White House and Democrats in the Senate will be essential. But fiscal hawks can already see the compromise coming, and they’re not interested. House Speaker John Boehner stated Friday he’s not willing to look into modifying spending caps, a move backed by Grover Norquist, a prominent anti-tax figure. GOP leadership has withheld endorsement of any plans.

“The sequester/cap is the major accomplishment of the GOP House/Senate and tea party,” Norquist told The Hill. “Why would anyone give it up. Leadership of House and Senate would be sacrificing their leverage.”

Opponents of cap adjustment point to the fact they’ve already been asked to place bad votes, and ceding to Democrats in order to push back against sequestration again does not seem to make it very high on the list for fiscal hawks. Back in 2013, Republican opponents called the Ryan-Murray deal nothing more than a slippery slope.

Defense hawks like Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain think the best shot at adjusting caps upward is in the Senate. Serious negotiations will likely not occur until later this year.

“There is a path to do something like that,” Republican Rep. Steve Stivers said, referring to another Ryan-Murray-like deal. “To bring folks together on something that continues to reduce the deficit and be below the target amounts, but also fund the priorities that both sides have … I could get behind that; I think a lot of people can get behind that.”

Follow Jonah Bennett on Twitter

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