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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 Agriculture, Oversight and Government Reform, and Energy and Commerce committees also have hearings ahead of them in which they must each identify tens of billions of dollars in savings.

All committees must report out their savings by the end of the month, and they will likely receive a vote on the floor.

But the Senate will probably not take up the House suggestions, so the process instead lays a marker for how Republicans would deal with the defense sequester. GOP aides are quick to point out that the House is acting while the Senate is not.

“We’ll be sending those bills to take care of sequestration to the Senate,” one GOP aide said. The public will see “if a Democratic Senate chooses to allow sequestration to happen, and so far, [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] hasn’t come up with a solution.”

In the event that committees cannot pass their reconciliation cuts, the Rules Committee is expected to make in order a floor amendment that would include alternatives to sequestration.

The appropriations process looks to get heated this year, as well, a course predicted when House Republicans passed a budget that deviates from the Budget Control Act’s number of $1.047 trillion. The Senate has vowed to stick to that number, so it looks unlikely that any bills can pass both chambers. Already, Members have predicted that a continuing resolution will be necessary toward the end of the year.

Still, Republicans say they are hoping to craft bills that can gather some level of bipartisan support. They are starting small this week, with hearings in two House subcommittees whose bills generally deal with less controversial subjects — the Energy and Water Development and Commerce, Justice and Science subpanels.

Other bills that deal with defense, such as the Homeland Security or military construction and Veterans Affairs bills, stand a chance to pass, aides said.

But Democrats are still up in the air as to whether they can go along with any of the bills at all because the topline number will have to match up with the House-passed budget of $1.028 trillion for fiscal 2013, a number to which they object.

One Democratic leadership aide predicted that “this will be a huge fight, and Democrats will oppose.”

That’s not to mention that policy riders are almost certain to come into play later this year, when the bills reach the full committee. Any individual riders could further dissuade Democrats from giving their consent to appropriations bills. That became a problem last year, particularly for the bill dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency and another that covers Cuba spending policy.

More controversy could rear its head later in the process, when conservative Republicans are asked to vote on spending bills. Some are noted for voting against all appropriations bills, and if they do this year, appropriators will need Democratic votes to pass bills.

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