WASHINGTON -- Top of Utah members of Utah's congressional delegation voted to support a budget compromise passed in the House Thursday, citing the pressure it relieves for those serving in the military.
Republican Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart were among the 332 positive votes for the compromise crafted by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash. The bill now advances to the Senate for consideration, where it faces opposition from at least one Utah lawmaker, Sen. Mike Lee.
The $85 billion deal replaces another round of automatic spending cuts that was to take effect in January under existing sequestration guidelines, including proposed cuts to the Pentagon. It also increases the pension contributions for newly hired federal workers, reduces the cost of living adjustment for military retirees under the age of 62 and increases the fees on air travel.
Bishop said the deal relieves the burden of sequestration on the military, while addressing the deficit over the long term.
"The hard-working men and women who serve our country have shouldered more than their fair share from President Obama's draconian cuts to defense as well as the president's sequester cuts to defense. You can't balance the budget on the backs of our military," Bishop said.
Stewart, who served in the Air Force, also cited the pressure the deal takes off the military.
"The sequester was a blunt instrument that indiscriminately cut defense spending in an irresponsible manner. This deal reverses those cuts that were focused largely on our defense spending. While I acknowledge that we can, and should, address wasteful spending in our defense department, the sequester was a poor way to address the need for more responsible spending," Stewart said.
In a letter issued to supporters detailing his opposition to the compromise, Lee said the budget deal makes more government, more expensive. He said sequestration may not be ideal but it at least forced Congress to get serious about excessive spending. He said the new deal negates any modest gains that have been won since 2011 by trading concrete reductions for theoretical spending cuts a decade from now.
"If there is a silver lining in this deal, it is that it at least further confirms the need for Republicans to finally develop a comprehensive conservative reform agenda. Real reform involves not simply cutting dysfunctional programs, but fixing them so government doesn't cost so much," Lee wrote.
The House vote did not follow along party lines. Bishop, Stewart and 169 GOP members of the House supported the bill, but 62 Republicans opposed it. The compromise drew 163 votes from Democrats in the House while 32 voted against it.