Talk show host Mark Levin told House Budget Committee Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) that the budget deal announced today with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was a “Mickey Mouse” deal, tinkering at the margins of the federal budget, undoing the sequester and exchanging immediate spending increases for future spending cuts.
Ryan countered that “elections have consequences,” and that many members of the Republican caucus were worried that the next tranche of sequester cuts would hit the military exclusively. He explained that there would be a net savings of $23 billion after $62 billion in new spending was offset by $85 billion in long-term cuts.
He added that the $85 billion would be a change in mandatory spending, as opposed to discretionary spending, noting that many of the savings would come from federal employees contributing more towards their pensions. Levin countered that even changes in “mandatory” spending could be undone easily by a future Congress.
The Budget Control Act that put the sequester in place, Levin argued, had also been touted as a “permanent” deal. Ryan disagreed, while agreeing that the new deal would not solve the government’s overall fiscal problems. It would be impossible to do more, he said, while Obama was president: “Elections have consequences.”
Ryan also hinted at the political motivation for the deal: the GOP did not have the stomach to endure another government shutdown, and would prefer to focus on Obamacare instead. Levin responded that it was possible to focus on both spending and Obamacare, and that “nothing” was being done about Obamacare anyway.
Levin noted that the Democrats’ main goal had been to undo the sequester–the Republicans’ main point of leverage in budget talks–and that the deal increased overall spending in the short term. Ryan explained that parts of the sequester would remain, and pointed out that Democrats had dropped a demand for higher taxes.
The interview was cordial throughout, with Levin expressing respect for Ryan’s efforts in the face of an “impossible” set of circumstances, if also showing some degree of exasperation with his answers. Ryan fought hard to defend the agreement, though acknowledged that he had a tendency to become “weedy” with the details.
Business leaders welcomed the deal, which came ahead of a December 13 deadline and before Congress’s annual recess. The National Retail Federation said in a statement: “This is an early and much needed holiday present for consumers and the businesses that employ and serve them every day in communities across the country.”