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Ryan Budget Under Attack

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
As Rep. Paul Ryan (right) appears poised to try to reform Medicare again, he could seek support from Sen. Ron Wyden, whom he sponsored a similar measure with in December.

Facing last-minute resistance from members of his own party, House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan will dive headfirst into turbulent water in releasing his fiscal 2013 budget today.

The Wisconsin Republican plans to mark up the resolution Wednesday, and he will need near-unified GOP support to pass it out of committee. But it remains unclear whether he has the votes.

With hours to go before the budget's rollout, hard-line conservatives spent Monday mounting an eleventh-hour charge against the proposed $1.028 trillion spending level and the amount of time that the plan would take to balance the budget, according to several GOP aides familiar with the situation.

"I'm still not sure how this gets out of committee at [$1.028 trillion] with no balance for a quarter-century. I really don't," one aide said to a conservative Member.

The situation has the potential to end up much like the bungled transportation legislation, with leadership dropping a bill before rounding up the votes to pass it. In the Budget Committee, it would take only three disenfranchised Republicans to sink the bill if, as expected, all Democrats vote against it.

Tea-party-affiliated groups such as FreedomWorks sent a letter to House Republicans last week indicating that they would not support a budget that takes more than a decade to balance.

But Ryan has rounded up some support.

Despite pushing for weeks to keep the budget's topline number in line with July's Budget Control Act, some Republican appropriators, three of whom sit on the Budget Committee, seem to have settled at the $1.028 trillion spending cap. Rep. Tom Cole, one of those three Members, said he was willing to accept a spending level lower than the law's $1.047 trillion in exchange for a budget that deals with sequestration through cuts to entitlements rather than discretionary spending.

"We've coalesced at what we think is the reasonable figure," the Oklahoma Republican said. "We ended up at a realistic point. Everybody had to give up things that they didn't want to give up."

But conservative Members were still vexed Monday by the plan to alter the sequestration process. The budget might shift tens of billions in would-be cuts to discretionary spending to the mandatory side of the ledger. Some members of the conservative Republican Study Committee argue that mandatory spending cuts should come in addition to the sequester's $97 billion in discretionary spending cuts for fiscal 2013.

Dropping a budget that RSC members openly reject would be essentially daring them to kill it in committee, a move that would open them to attacks from Democrats, whom the GOP has long chided for not passing a budget.

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