House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is pursued...

House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is pursued by reporters on the morning after a budget deal was worked out between Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. (Dec. 11, 2013) Credit: AP

The budget deal that Representative Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray reached Tuesday will be a tough sell in the House of Representatives.

The leaders of the two congressional budget committees have reached a handshake-agreement to set discretionary spending just above $1 trillion for the 2014 fiscal year, replacing close to half the across-the-board sequester cuts with less controversial spending reductions and revenue increases.

The issue still being hashed out is how to soften one of those offsets, an increase in pension costs for federal employees.

That's essential because a Ryan-Murray deal, which could avoid a showdown and possible government shutdown over the budget next month, almost certainly would need a healthy majority of Democrats to win passage in the House. That won't be possible if it looks like federal employees are getting short- changed.

Ryan and Speaker John Boehner will have a considerable challenge persuading a large number of House Republicans to back the deal. The Tea Party-backed, anti-government, wing of the Republican House caucus opposes any measure that dilutes the cuts from sequestration. Boehner, who wants the vote completed quickly so the House can adjourn by the end of this week, will argue that, whatever its imperfections, a deal is better than another shutdown; the October shutdown was a political disaster for Republicans.

On the revenue side, the emerging deal would delete some of the more politically sensitive cuts such as higher postal rates, replacing them with measures such as higher customs levies and airport-security fees.

Big ticket items, such as closing big tax loopholes or reining in some entitlements, never were considered seriously.

If any compromise can get through the House, Murray and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are confident they can secure its passage in the upper chamber.

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist.

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