Virginia conservatives say no to sequester-killing budget agreement
By a vote of 266 to 167, the House of Representatives approved a controversial two-year budget deal that increases federal spending while also suspending the federal debt ceiling through 2017. The agreement effectively kills the budget sequestration agreement that had, against enormous odds, temporarily slowed the growth of federal debt as a percentage of gross domestic product for the first time in the 21st century.
Just 79 Republicans voted with all the chamber's Democrats in support of the bill, which was easily passed by the Senate Friday. The positive effects of the sequester on budget discipline have become apparent since it went into effect in 2013, and maintaining the spending caps in the agreement have emerged as a crucial test of Republicans' commitment to control spending.
Virginia's congressional delegation split its vote, exposing regional as well as philosophical differences over the measure.
Republican Representatives David Brat (VA-7), Randy Forbes (VA-4), Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), Morgan Griffith (VA-9), Robert Hurt (VA-5), and Rob Wittman (VA-1) all voted against passage. But two Republicans, Scott Rigell (VA-2) and Barbara Comstock (VA-10), joined the three Democratic members in support.
Both Rigell and Comstock represent parts of the state with high concentrations of federal workers, contractors, and military personnel.
Wittman and Forbes, who also represent defense-dependent districts, nevertheless opposed the deal. In a press release, Wittman took particular issue with the budget's decrease in military spending. "The Bipartisan Budget Agreement would provide $607 billion defense spending in fiscal year 2016," Wittman said, "falling $5 billion short of the budget request and House-passed defense bill."
Forbes issued a terse email to constituents from his cellphone: "Voted no on raising the debt ceiling and no on the budget deal. Not the right course for America."
Rigell joined with Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-3) in voting for the deal. In a press release, Rigell said that, while the budget was "imperfect," it also "provides the budgetary certainty that three consecutive defense secretaries have said is absolutely necessary."
Scott praised the agreement for not reforming entitlements. "It provides two years of sequester relief, prevents a 50 percent increase in Medicare Part B premiums, avoids deep cuts to Social Security disability insurance benefits, and extends the debt limit through early 2017."
Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA-11) took to the House floor in support of the budget agreement in part because it "pulls us back from the brink of defaulting on our nation’s credit."
"I’m astounded at how some of our colleagues continue to advocate for such a catastrophe that would send a shock wave through the global economy," Connolly said.
Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, both Democrats, supported the agreement and voted to pass it. In a press release, Kaine called the compromise "a dramatic improvement over a government debt default, across-the-board budget cuts and crisis budgeting."
In a video press release, Warner called the agreement a “day of sanity after months of irresponsibility.”
As he promised just before Wednesday's Republican presidential debate in Boulder, Colo., on Wednesday, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul opposed the budget agreement, but the bill easily passed the Senate on a 64-35 vote. All 35 opponents in the Senate were Republicans.