The Spectacle Blog

More on the Budget Deal

By on 12.13.13 | 12:08PM

Look, I realize that my take on the Ryan-Murray budget deal doesn't sit well with many conservatives. I knew that before I even wrote it.

Conservative talk radio hosts disagree with me. Quin Hillyer disagrees with me. AmSpec's own Matt Purple disagrees with me.

My friends at FreedomWorks and almost every other pro-liberty group disagree with me.

And I get it.

As I've said, there's plenty not to love in this deal.

One of the main items of contention, one which I said is a "very high price to pay" for a budget deal is undoing part of the sequester, which has been the most effective check on government spending in recent memory.

Every conservative I've heard slam the deal includes that as a, or the, primary reason for opposing it.

But there's one important factor that these folks, whom I generally agree with, may be missing here: They assume that keeping the sequester fully intact is the most likely, or even a very likely, alternative outcome to this deal.

Based on conversations with a senior House Republican aide -- someone who doesn't love the economics of this deal and whose vision of the future is the actual "Ryan budget" (or something even more conservative than that) -- there is (or was) real worry that enough "moderate" and big-spending Republicans (also known as members of the Defense and Appropriations Committees) would have sided with Democrats to pass a bill undoing much more of the sequester, for much longer (or forever), than the Ryan-Murray deal did.

This deal gave them an option that was less bad for fiscal conservatives than at least one possible other outcome, should enough of them have revolted to do even more damage to the sequester.

This argument makes some sense to me, though I also question it for two reasons: First, how many of those people would have risked the near certainty of a primary challenge from the right, supported by the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks, and others, if they voted with Democrats to gut the sequester? Second, I'm generally skeptical of this sort of "it could have been worse" logic. It's the thinking that gave us Medicare Part D and much of the "fiscal cliff" deal.

But regardless of my skepticism, the possibility of enough Republicans working with Democrats on a bill which would have undone sequester restraint even more was definitely in the minds of House conservatives who, despite recognizing this deal's flaws, decided to support it.

One other thing: While the increase in airline ticket security fees bothers me, the GOP aide explained that the TSA has grown so much that the current fee structure does not cover its cost, so taxpayers are now subsidizing travelers. The increase in the security fee, says the aide, simply causes people who are using TSA by traveling to pay for it. I said "I'd rather just abolish the TSA." The aide said, "So would I." Of course, that's something for an other day, or another decade.

Although the bill passed the House yesterday on a 332-94 vote (62 Republicans and 32 Democrats opposing it), the Senate will be a closer call. That said, I still expect it to pass and still, while holding my nose, hope it does. I believe that Republican chances of taking back the Senate in 2014 are massively improved by this deal, and I think that makes this deal worth doing.


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