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War Over Spending Just Beginning in House

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp must find more than $50 billion in savings from within his committee’s jurisdiction and said he expects those cuts “to be bipartisan in nature.”

The battle over the House budget resolution might be behind the chamber, but the war over its specifics is just beginning.

House appropriators this week begin taking up the first round of spending bills while six key committees will start outlining how they hope to offset the hundreds of billions of dollars in defense cuts scheduled to go into effect in January through the sequestration process.

House Republican leaders are crafting a memo to Members that will lay out how the committees hope to replace the defense cuts with a reconciliation process that asks committees to identify alternative cuts.

The first details have begun to emerge, portending a process full of political theater, with Republicans singling out President Barack Obama’s health care law, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law and tort reform as areas ripe for savings.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who must find more than $50 billion in savings from within his committee’s jurisdiction, said Monday that he expects those cuts “to be bipartisan in nature” because “a lot of them are going to be things that originated in Simpson-Bowles,” shorthand for the president’s deficit-cutting commission.

The committee is looking to find much of the savings by recovering overpayments made by the health care law, aides said.

Budget ranking member Chris Van Hollen said he would hear the Republican out on their suggestions. But he said cuts to the health care law or other Democratic priorities will not find traction in his party.

“I think that some of the proposals are going to be nonstarters,” the Maryland Democrat said. “Given the fact they’re taking a lopsided approach, it’s going to be very difficult to muster Democratic support.”

Van Hollen said the reconciliation process is a “charade” because while it was created to avoid restrictive Senate rules, in this case the Senate is not involved. Without getting specific, he suggested a solution that would tackle the defense sequester with both tax increases and cuts to programs.

But for the time being, a bipartisan solution does not look to be in the cards.

The Judiciary Committee must identify about $40 billion in savings and has announced it will start the process today with a hearing on changing the way damages can awarded.

The Financial Services Committee will follow with a Wednesday hearing taking aim at the Dodd-Frank Act. Among its suggestions are cutting a fund that is supposed to prevent bank bailouts and bringing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau under the authority of Congress, where it can cut the bureau’s budget.

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