Politics & Government

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr joins bipartisan vote to pass budget compromise

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.
U.S. Rep. Andy Barr of Lexington represents Kentucky's 6th District.

U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, who earlier this year joined conservative Republicans in voting against a compromise that reopened the federal government, voted in favor of a budget compromise for next year and 2015.

Barr said Thursday after the House passed the bill, which eliminates $63 billion in automatic across-the-board cuts, that the compromise "honors the principles I pledged to support when I came to Washington: It reduces the deficit and reforms unsustainable spending programs without raising taxes."

"Unlike the deal to raise the debt ceiling in October, which was produced in the absence any meaningful bipartisan cooperation and without any substantive fiscal reforms, today's agreement was produced through a real and deliberative process that will result in modest reforms representing an important step in the right direction," Barr said.

Democrats have targeted Barr's congressional seat, seeing a pick-up opportunity especially after Barr joined Tea Party Republicans this fall in votes over President Barack Obama's health care law that Americans blamed for the government shutdown.

Democrat Elisabeth Jensen, who is challenging Barr, said Thursday the "deal is an important show of faith, that Congress can actually work in a bipartisan way."

"I am glad Congressman Barr voted for it," Jensen said. "I hope it will be an example of things to come, and not the exception to the rule."

But Jensen blasted Congress for not taking up unemployment insurance, saying "these are exactly the kinds of people we need to be helping, not cutting the legs out from underneath during the holidays."

"Before we start cutting their unemployment insurance, we need to take steps toward creating jobs for them to have, and workforce development training so they are ready for the jobs that are out there," Jensen said.

Of the Kentucky congressional delegation, only Republican U.S. Rep. Thomas Massie voted against the measure.

The $1 trillion spending bill, worked out by Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, is supported by the White House and is expected to pass the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, facing a Republican primary challenge from Louisville businessman Matt Bevin, appears unlikely to support the spending compromise.

While Bevin has warned McConnell against supporting a deal opposed by conservative fundraising groups, the senator is a likely "no" vote given the fact that protecting the $63 billion in cuts known as sequestration was the only concession McConnell won in the compromise with Senate Democrats in October that re-opened the government.

McConnell pushed for the domestic part of sequestration as part of a deal with the White House in 2011 during the first battle with Democrats over extending the nation's debt limit.

In November, the state's senior senator attended a meeting of House Republicans and urged them to protect the cuts.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has already come out in opposition to the deal, assailing it earlier this week as a "huge mistake."

While likely Democratic Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes has stayed mum on the compromise, Bevin on Wednesday blasted the deal and McConnell, saying the senator was "missing in action when our nation most needs leadership."

"Instead of leading, he is dodging a major issue while waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing," Bevin said. "This deal is bad for America because it raises spending in the short-term for long-term cuts that everyone knows will never happen. McConnell should lead Republicans in demanding a deal that, at a bare minimum, sticks to the existing savings of the sequester."

Kentucky's U.S. House delegation

Voting yes

Andy Barr

Brett Guthrie

Ed Whitfield

Harold "Hal" Rogers

John Yarmuth

Voting no

Thomas Massie

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