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Budget Leaves House Republicans in a Bind

Scott J. Ferrell/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Mike Simpson and some Republicans on the House Budget Committee want to pass a budget in line with the spending levels set by July’s Budget Control Act.

Republicans have hammered Democrats for not passing a budget while they were in power, but divisions among House Budget Committee Republicans might leave them without a budget this year, too.

House Republican leaders have been holding listening sessions with their Members on the topic, but they are in a bind. It is unclear that they have the votes to pass a budget resolution with the numbers from the Budget Control Act, as many conservatives believe it would spend too much.

Lowering the spending cap, on the other hand, would leave appropriators with unrealistic numbers and could doom any spending bills to failure on the House floor.

Not passing a budget is also undesirable for the House GOP, as it has pilloried Senate Democrats for deciding not to pass a budget resolution this year and for relying on the Budget Control Act.

“That’s problematic. We might not pass a budget, who knows?” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a Member of both the Budget and Appropriations committees.

Some Republicans on the panel, such as Simpson, want to pass a budget in line with July’s Budget Control Act, which set spending levels for fiscal 2013 at
$1.047 trillion. Conservatives, on the other hand, want to bring the number down to fall in line with House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s original number of about $1.028 trillion.

The Wisconsin Republican declined to comment on budget discussions.

But further complicating things is sequestration, the  guillotine hanging over the process. Factoring in the planned cuts and lessening the effect on defense spending, conservatives would like to set the number for discretionary spending as low as $930 billion.

The problem is that Republicans may have neither enough votes in the committee to pass a budget in line with the Budget Control Act nor one that shrinks spending below it.

Nine GOP members of the Budget Committee voted against the final version of the Budget Control Act. One of them, Rep. Scott Garrett (N.J.), said it would be “tough” to pass a budget in the committee that conforms to those levels.

“We effectively could be said to be to the left, then, of the administration on spending levels,” Garrett said. “You want to live by what you voted on, which was the Ryan budget.”

With the conservative Heritage Action for America vowing to oppose any budget that pegs the numbers to Budget Control Act levels, GOP leaders likely would not  be able to pass a budget in the committee or on the House floor without Democratic support.

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