Heller says budget deal doesn't cut enough


WASHINGTON -- Rep. Dean Heller said Tuesday that he will not vote for the budget agreement that cuts more than $38 billion in federal spending through September, saying it does not cut enough to address the nation's budget woes.

"If we are going to turn our economy around and create jobs, our nation must get its fiscal house in order," the Nevada Republican said in a brief statement issued by his office.

"After reviewing the final funding agreement, it just does not achieve this goal," Heller said. "The budget agreement only equates to 2 percent in cuts for this fiscal year. It is time for the administration and Congress to do more to place our country on a sustainable fiscal path."

The House is scheduled to vote Thursday on the fiscal 2011 spending bill that was negotiated between the White House and congressional leaders late Friday.

Heller's announced vote likely will bolster his standing as a fiscal conservative as he seeks a promotion to U.S. Senate in the 2012 election. But Democrats seized on it as an attempt by Heller to kowtow to Tea Party conservatives unhappy with the deal.

"He has consistently chosen to protect his right flank and pander to the right at the expense of working Nevadans," said Zach Hudson, communications director for the Nevada Democratic Party.

The compromise, which averted a government shutdown, calls for a little more than $1.05 trillion in domestic and foreign aid spending for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. That amounts to a reduction of $38.5 billion from what Congress approved in fiscal 2010, and $78.5 billion below what President Barack Obama had requested for fiscal 2011.

The numbers, along with policy riders on issues such as regulation of greenhouse gas emissions and funding for women's health services, were the subject of intense negotiations that concluded just an hour or so before the midnight deadline for the government to run out of money.

Heller's initial reaction to the compromise was lukewarm. After details of the bill that codifies the agreement became available for study, he announced his opposition.

Among other Nevada lawmakers, Rep. Shelley Berkley, a Democrat and possible 2012 Senate candidate, plans to vote for the bill, a spokesman said.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., spoke approvingly of the deal when it was announced Friday. His office said Tuesday that he was reviewing the bill and was holding off an announcement on how he will vote.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, was a key player in the negotiations that produced the compromise. While the pact contains record budget cuts, Reid has said Democrats got a good deal by being able to protect programs that represent the party's core values, and he is expected to vote for it.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., who delivered a speech last week calling on lawmakers to get the dispute over fiscal 2011 spending behind them so that they can focus on bigger budget issues, has not disclosed how he will vote.

Heller, a three-term House member from Northern Nevada, has announced he is running for the Senate in 2012 to replace Ensign, who is retiring in the wake of a sex and ethics scandal.

The budget compromise is expected to pass both the House and he Senate, although there also will be votes of protest.

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the Republican Study Commission, the conservative wing of House GOP members, predicted Friday there would be unhappiness among conservatives at the level of cuts.

On Tuesday, Jordan announced he would vote against the deal, saying, "Americans want us to reach higher, act bolder, and remember the job we were sent here to do."

To sell the agreement to their rank and file, Republican leaders have emphasized that the fiscal 2011 bill is only the first chance budget hawks will have to influence spending this year.

Congress faces a vote sometime before Memorial Day on whether to increase the government's borrowing authority, a vote that could be coupled with more spending cuts or other fiscal reforms.

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephens media.com or 702-783-1760.

 

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