Budget Deal Between Congress, White House Coming Into Focus

PHOTO: The United States Capitol Building is pictured on June 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C.John Greim/Getty Images
The United States Capitol Building is pictured on June 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Congressional leaders were confident enough in the broad outlines of a potential budget deal with the White House to update House and Senate members Monday night -– but some conservatives voiced concern over some of the details of the still-developing plan.

The tentative deal, which was posted online by House Republicans shortly before midnight, would lower the odds of a Dec. 11 government shutdown, would increase spending levels by $80 billion for two years above those set in 2011 across-the-board sequestration cuts.

The agreement -- which would not allocate any funds, but would set topline figures for appropriators ahead of the December deadline -- would make changes to a Social Security program for some savings and raise the debt limit through March 2017. It would also repeal Obamacare’s auto-enrollment mandate and prevent a hike in Medicare B premiums for senior citizens.

The proposal represents a meeting point between Democrats, who demanded a "clean" debt ceiling detached from a budget deal, and Republicans, who generally want deeper cuts and more extensive entitlement reform than this arrangement offers.

Pairing an unvarnished debt ceiling hike with a budget that includes proposed entitlement reforms could provide cover for Republicans to support raising the $18 trillion debt limit, which the government is set to hit next Tuesday, Nov. 3.

But conservatives -– who, like all members, want to review the details of the proposal when it is introduced in both chambers -—still have their concerns.

"Those of us who are on the conservative side of the party probably flinched a little bit," Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said after the Senate Republican meeting, citing concerns with how the proposal offsets new spending.

House hardliners left their conference meeting simmering over how the potential deal was reached.

"You could count on the fingers of one hand how many people were involved in this negotiation," said Rep. John Fleming, R-Louisiana, a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

"We're not just here to take commands," said Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, another member of the group.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has said he wants to clear the legislative table for his successor.

"Cleaning out the barn," he told reporters as he walked into the briefing Monday night.

Hammering out a budget deal and debt ceiling hike would be quite the swan song for the Ohio Republican.

While the move would keep Boehner’s successor -– all but certain to be Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin –- from presiding over a messy vote requiring Democratic support, it could also put unexpected pressure on Ryan to distance himself from Boehner’s leadership.

"I hope Paul Ryan will let us know how he feels about the process," Amash said.

The Wisconsin Republican, who members say did not speak in the meeting Monday evening, left the briefing without taking questions from reporters.

"[Ryan is] in favor of regular order, he's in favor of the Hastert rule -– the majority of the majority -- if you had those two things, you wouldn’t get this outcome," said Rep. Dave Brat, R-Virginia.