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Paul Ryan Budget May Expose GOP Rift

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan speaks at a news conference Tuesday on his budget, the “Path to Prosperity.”

As House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s financial blueprint wends its way to the floor with reluctant GOP support, Members and staff are stricken with a resounding sense of “Here we go again.”

The House and Senate are again split on how much money to spend in fiscal 2013, and some Members acknowledge that a continuing resolution in September will be the only option to keep the government functioning.

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that it is “realistic” that a CR at the end of this year could maintain spending levels closer to those in the Budget Control Act than Ryan’s budget.

The problem is that unlike last September, there’s an election on the horizon. Some Republicans worry privately that the unflinching conservative flank of the GOP could expose the party to attacks that it is yet again risking a government shutdown. That criticism, they said, could endanger the House majority and a potential takeover of the Senate.

Because the appropriations bills funding the government expire Sept. 30, Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan also said a short-term CR is the most likely option to continue spending into next year.

A CR, he said, could maintain current spending levels of $1.043 trillion, rather than the $1.047 trillion for fiscal 2013 agreed to in the BCA — and though he has pushed for lower spending levels, that would be fine with him.

“If it’s a short-term CR, that is in my judgment better than locking in a year’s worth of spending at a higher number,” the Ohio Republican said. “Hopefully we’ll get a new Congress, new Senate and new administration come January of 2013” that would allow Members to cut spending further.

There are signs, though, that conservatives are still itching for a fight and would not so easily accept a CR at current levels. They pushed to cut Ryan’s budget to $931 billion, rather than the current $1.028 trillion to which Members agreed.

And in an RSC meeting Wednesday, Jordan announced with wide support that next week, the RSC will release its own budget, which sticks to the $931 billion number and balances the budget in 10 years. That contrasts with the roughly 25 years in Ryan’s budget, according to a source in the meeting.

The source said Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) came to the meeting to encourage Members to push for a budget that balances in 10 years.

There is also the problem of CR fatigue. Members have in the past expressed dismay at having to vote on temporary spending bills, and as a result, House leadership has had problems pulling in 218 Republican votes. Instead, they have had to rely on Democratic votes to put such measures over the top.

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