As Senate leadership celebrated their agreement on a massive two-year budget deal, Speaker Paul Ryan struggled to convince his conference’s right flank that the legislation was worth supporting.
The Senate hasn’t even yet passed its funding package—which includes a stopgap bill to keep the government open until March 23, along with a two-year, $300 billion increase in defense in domestic spending, a one-year suspension of the debt limit, and $81 billion in disaster relief—but House leaders are already trying to contain opposition among their members.
Negotiations have sparked a resurgence of the internecine strife that has wracked the conference in recent years: Spending hawks in the Freedom Caucus, for instance, are decrying the deal. If Republicans support this package, they argue, they’ve signaled to voters that the party’s message of fiscal prudence—the message that sealed their majority in 2010—is a sham. Moderate Republicans, meanwhile, counter that the bill’s long-term Pentagon funding, not to mention its cessation of the pattern of month-to-month government funding, makes the deficit a necessary pill to swallow.
Those tensions were brought into sharp relief this afternoon, when Ryan pitched his members on the deal’s terms in a closed-door conference. Over salads and sandwiches from Corner Bakery, members listened as Ryan hyped the stability this would bring the Pentagon. He also argued that revenue from the recently passed tax plan, along with a small series of offsets, would help stymie any fiscal fallout from the long-term deal (Republicans believe economic growth will offset the cost of the tax law; most analyses say otherwise). “It once and for all gives Secretary Mattis what he needs on defense,” says New York Representative Chris Collins, who supports the package. “There’s a bitter pill of sorts we are swallowing on the fiscal side, but there’s a point at which we have to get things done.”