Pelosi a ‘yes’ on budget deal
By Mike Lillis - 12/12/13 11:55 AM EST
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday backed the bipartisan budget deal set to hit the House floor, virtually assuring its passage.
"Let's get through it, let's get it off the table, let's move on to addressing specific issues," she told reporters in the Capitol. "We're very unhappy about it, but not enough to say, 'Therefore we're going to make matters worse by not having an agreement.' "
The Democratic leader had not revealed her hand since Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) unveiled the bill Tuesday evening, and had hinted Wednesday that House Democrats might withhold their support over a Republican move to prevent a physician pay cut without extending unemployment insurance (UI) benefits.
But with President Obama endorsing the measure — and with the House set to adjourn Friday for the rest of the year — Pelosi said her concerns are outweighed by the need to solidify a budget blueprint and move on to other things.
"Hopefully, it will go forward," she said.
Pelosi's support will almost certainly compel the backing of other House Democrats, though it remains unclear how many. Democratic leaders have emphasized that they aren't whipping the vote, and a number of liberals are already lining up in opposition based, among other things, on the absence of new revenues and an extension of UI benefits.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee and one of the negotiators of the Ryan-Murray agreement, said Thursday morning that "it's too early to say" if most Democrats will support the measure.
Pelosi, however, predicted a strong Democratic vote and suggested her troops would not let the bill fail.
"A matter of days ago, I would have said there weren't very many votes on our side for this bill. Now there are," Pelosi said.
"I don't think our members will let this bill go down."
Many liberals on and off Capitol Hill are criticizing the White House and congressional Democratic leaders for not insisting that an extension of federal jobless benefits be included in the budget package.
"It is inexplicably immoral to shelter multinationals that avoid paying anything in taxes while abandoning workers struggling to find a job," Robert Borosage, head of the Campaign for America’s Future, a liberal advocacy group, said Wednesday while urging Democrats to oppose the measure.
Pelosi rejected that argument Thursday, saying Democratic leaders have made UI a priority, and will continue to do so.
"This is an intolerable situation to us, but we also want to end sequestration," she said. "So you have two 'nos.' Two 'nos' don't make a 'yes.' So we want to get one 'yes' and then fight to get the second 'yes.' "
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed Thursday that UI will be the first item on the Senate's calendar when Congress returns to Washington next year.
Several other Democratic leaders — including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — have yet to say how they’ll vote on the bill.
"The budget agreement is a pale shadow of what it ought to be," Hoyer said Wednesday. "There are a number of people who say this is better than the alternative, I think that is accurate, but that it is far, far short of what the American people ought to expect of us and what we ought to expect of ourselves."
Across the aisle, a number of conservatives are also grumbling that the budget deal hikes federal spending and installs an airline passenger user fee that many consider a tax increase — provisions they say defy basic GOP principles.
"Republicans said they wanted to reduce spending. This deal does exactly the opposite," said leadership critic Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.). "I'm sorry, raising fees is raising taxes and raising spending is raising spending."
Despite the opposition, the budget bill is expected to pass through the lower chamber Thursday evening.