Architect of the Capitol

House Approves Budget Bill, Giving Boehner a Last Victory

Move takes some divisive fights off the table for Boehner's successor.

House Speak­er John Boehner capped his 24-year con­gres­sion­al ca­reer Wed­nes­day, present­ing his suc­cessor, the GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the U.S. eco­nomy with a part­ing gift that’s a bit big­ger than the new golf cart, clubs, and bag he re­ceived from mem­bers this week: a two-year, $80 bil­lion-plus budget bill.

The bill, which passed the House 266-167, would tem­por­ar­ily re­lieve Wash­ing­ton from the gov­ern­ing-by-crisis mod­el that troubled Boehner’s stew­ard­ship. It is ex­pec­ted to pass the Sen­ate be­fore Tues­day’s debt-ceil­ing dead­line by which Con­gress must act so the U.S. can pay its bills. The agree­ment ne­go­ti­ated by Boehner, the White House, House Demo­crat­ic lead­er Nancy Pelosi, and Sen­ate lead­ers ex­tends the $18.1 tril­lion debt lim­it through March 2017.

Rep. Paul Ry­an, who was nom­in­ated just hours be­fore­hand by his GOP col­leagues to lead the House over his ini­tial protests, said he sup­por­ted the sub­stance of the agree­ment but prom­ised that the pro­cess—closed-door meet­ings dom­in­ated for sev­er­al weeks by the staff of a hand­ful of top mem­bers and the White House—would change. Should the 45-year-old Ry­an be pro­moted on the House floor Thursday, he would be the young­est speak­er since 1869.

“There is no doubt that a bet­ter pro­cess would have pro­duced a bet­ter res­ult,” said Ry­an in a state­ment. “If I’m elec­ted speak­er, we will be­gin a con­ver­sa­tion about how to ap­proach these big is­sues—as a team—long be­fore we reach these kinds of dead­lines. We simply can’t keep do­ing busi­ness this way.”

The two-year budget agree­ment boosts do­mest­ic and mil­it­ary spend­ing by $80 bil­lion and in­creases a sep­ar­ate ac­count by about $16 bil­lion per year—close to what the ad­min­is­tra­tion wanted. It also drastic­ally lim­its a massive hike in Medi­care Part B premi­ums and pre­vents a big cut to So­cial Se­cur­ity Dis­ab­il­ity In­sur­ance set to hit next year while find­ing sav­ings in both pro­grams.

The bill is paid for through sav­ings com­piled over the next dec­ade, when you con­sider the en­ti­tle­ment-pro­gram re­forms, tricky ac­count­ing tech­niques, and oth­er meas­ures, in­clud­ing the selling off of mil­lions of oil bar­rels from the Stra­tegic Pet­ro­leum Re­serve. But the ap­pro­pri­ation pro­cess will fill in the fig­ures; House mem­bers on the Ag­ri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee said they reached an agree­ment with the lead­er­ship to fix a $3 bil­lion crop-in­sur­ance cut. The dead­line for Con­gress to pass a spend­ing bill and avert a gov­ern­ment shut­down is Dec. 11.

The last two-year budget agree­ment was hashed out by Ry­an and Sen. Patty Mur­ray in 2013 after a 16-day par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down and amid fears that a pre­vi­ous budget law cut too deeply from gov­ern­ment agen­cies across the board.

Boehner’s im­pend­ing budget vic­tory ap­peared to put him in a good mood Tues­day.

“I feel pretty good about where I am, and I like the fact that I see light at the end of the tun­nel,” he said in a press con­fer­ence.

“I made it clear a month ago when I an­nounced that I was leav­ing that I wanted to do my best to clean the barn,” he ad­ded. “I didn’t want [the next speak­er] to walk in­to a dirty barn full of you-know-what. I’ve done my best to try to clean it up.”

Daniel Newhauser contributed to this article.