Editor’s note: Story updated with statement from U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
Arkansas’ two U.S. Senators voted against a bipartisan budget agreement that passed the Senate early Friday morning (Oct. 30) and now heads to the president’s desk. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 passed the Senate, 64-35. It passed the House earlier this week, 266-167. President Obama is expected to sign it.
The deal suspends until March 2017 the debt ceiling, which is the borrowing limit the federal government was expected to reach next week. It increases spending for defense and domestic programs by $80 billion over two years while providing another $8 billion in Medicare premium fixes.
Supporters of the bill say spending increases are offset by cuts elsewhere. The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan anti-deficit group in Washington, says the bill increases spending by $154 billion through an increase in war spending, “gimmicks” and interest costs. Of that, $78 billion is actually offset, the Committee says.
Following the vote, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., released a statement saying, “I cannot support a budget that does so little to cut spending or address the drivers of our debt. While this bill moves defense spending in the right direction, it’s not enough to adequately protect and defend us from the threats we face – particularly during its second year. This agreement also hurts Arkansas farmers, seniors on Social Security, and young people just starting out who will shoulder the burden of the federal government’s $18 trillion and growing national debt. And this deal suspends the debt ceiling, with no limit, until March 2017 – without any reforms.
“Arkansans are tired of the ‘spend now, fix later’ mentality that’s become so common in Washington. They’re ready for a different approach. Rest assured, I will keep working to restrain spending and to find long-term solutions for Arkansans.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., issued this statement:
“We’ve made real progress toward restoring regular order to the budgeting process by passing all 12 appropriations bills out of the committee this year in the Senate. Those 12 bills are what we should be considering, not this last-minute agreement crafted without input from most members.
“The deal once again busts the budget caps in place by allowing for billions of additional spending over the next two years, all of which will be added to our already massive national debt.
“Just as Arkansans have been forced to make difficult decisions in this tough economy, Washington must as well. We need to keep our commitment to return to regular order and responsible budgeting. This agreement was a setback in that regard.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, was the only member of the state’s all-Republican congressional delegation to support the measure. On Wednesday, Womack, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, released the following statement: “This budget agreement is far from ideal, but providing for our men and women in uniform and for the full faith and credit of the United States is not an option. It is a responsibility. And as an appropriator, I appreciate the fact that it gives our committee a chance to actually do its work.”