Heller to vote against federal budget agreement

WASHINGTON — Sen. Dean Heller said Friday he plans to vote against the new blueprint for government spending, calling it a short-term fix that does little to address the nation’s debt problems.

“After carefully reviewing the latest budget deal and listening to Nevadans’ concerns about our government’s spending problems, I cannot support this legislation,” the Nevada Republican said.

“Congress has been handed another short-term deal that does absolutely nothing to tackle our long-term debt, or place our nation on sound fiscal footing,” he said in a statement distributed by his office.

The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday on the budget plan, which passed the House on Thursday on a 332-94 vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Friday he was confident the budget deal will pass.

Reid told Bloomberg Television in an interview that there are enough Democratic votes to clear the bill and that it would be “suicidal” for Republicans to block it.

If passed, the legislation would enact budget goals for Congress to meet over the next two years.

It calls for $1.012 trillion in spending for federal departments in 2014 and $1.014 trillion in 2015.

It would set the stage for further votes next month on appropriations bills that would distribute the spending throughout the bureaucracy.

The bill would restore $63 billion over the two years that had been targeted for automatic cuts under the 2011 “sequester” law but offsets that with $85 billion in revenues, a mix of new fees and reductions elsewhere.

Supporters said this week it would bring to an end the gridlock over spending that culminated in the 16-day government shutdown in October.

They said the measure would put Congress on a path to set spending priorities in an orderly way, rather than through piecemeal bills that keep the government running only for months at a time.

But critics say the agreement still allows too much spending and goes nowhere near tackling tax reform or significant changes in entitlement programs such as Social Security that are said to drive the nation’s debt.

Heller also said he has a problem with a provision that calls for a reduction in cost-of-living payments to retired military.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., voted against the House bill, citing those cuts as the reason.

“Rather than relying on our veterans to pay for increased spending, Congress needs to make sacrifices all across the board,” Heller said.

“Our heroes have served this nation bravely and do not deserve to have their benefits compromised in any way.”

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.