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Hatch on budget deal: 'Sometimes the answer has to be yes'

Published December 16, 2013 5:48 pm

Compromise • Hatch's support means Lee stands alone in Utah delegation in opposition to the budget agreement.
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Washington • Sen. Orrin Hatch will back the compromise federal budget deal, arguing that it's better than nothing and Republicans can't just vote no all the time.

"This agreement isn't everything I'd hoped it would be, and it isn't what I would have written," Hatch said Monday. "But sometimes the answer has to be yes."

Utah's other Republican senator, Mike Lee, opposes the measure negotiated between the budget leaders in the Republican-run House and Democrat-led Senate. The Senate is likely to vote to advance the legislation on Tuesday and support final passage later this week.

The House overwhelmingly approved the deal last week with all four of Utah's representatives voting for it.

Conservative groups have criticized the plan because it increases spending by dumping some of the across-the-board cuts federal agencies have faced this year and would have seen again next year. The deal raises spending limits by $62 billion during the next two fiscal years.

With Republicans controlling only one-half of one of the three branches of government, Hatch said the compromise was commendable and achieves three other goals: cutting debt over the long-term, preventing another possible government shutdown and halting the stopgap measures, which have rocked the United States with economic uncertainty.

"Ultimately, this agreement upholds the principles conservatives stand for and, with Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate, it is the best we could hope for," Hatch said.

Hatch's Senate colleague from Utah has been a vocal critic. In an email to supporters last week, Lee called the compromise a "raw deal."

"Rather than enacting reforms to make government more efficient, the budget deal makes more government more expensive," Lee said.

The agreement, negotiated between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., addresses only domestic and defense spending and doesn't offer any reform on entitlement spending such as Social Security or Medicare.

Hatch, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, says he's hopeful the budget deal could lead to comprehensive reforms now that both sides of the aisle are at least talking.

tburr@sltrib.com