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One More Budget Brouhaha

Douglas Graham/Roll Call

Lilly added that Senate appropriators would work from the new debt ceiling spending figure and, if the House sticks to the budget resolution, the two chambers could settle the issue in a conference committee but likely at levels higher than the House-passed Ryan budget calls for.

“That gives the two houses the opportunity to go to conference and produce numbers that are more moderate and less disruptive than the ones in the House budget resolution,” Lilly said.

Adoption of the new spending level isn’t a problem in the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority. Under the debt limit law, the figures are deemed passed by the Senate after Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) files them in the Congressional Record.

The debt ceiling deal was begrudgingly supported by many House Republicans as a preferable alternative to a possible default on government debt.

Ryan called the measure “far from perfect” but nevertheless said it was “a positive step forward in getting government-spending control.”

But others opposed it because it didn’t require passage of a balanced budget amendment and sets up the new joint committee that will be pressured to consider tax increases.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a tea-party-backed freshman, said he opposed the measure because it doesn’t cut spending enough.

“Back in April — when I voted against the continuing resolution for this year — I said ‘no’ because the cuts were minimal,” he said in a release after the vote on the deal. “I came to the same conclusion today: these are paltry cuts compared to the $14.3 trillion in debt we already have and the $7 trillion in new debt we can expect in the next decade. This is not a path to fiscal solvency, it’s a path to fiscal insanity. My constituents and our economy deserve a long-term solution that ends the biggest problem: we simply spend too much.”

In April, Congress avoided a government shutdown by passing an eleventh-hour deal to fund the remainder of fiscal 2011 that resulted in a roughly $40 billion cut from fiscal 2010 spending. The package amounted to the largest nondefense spending cut in the nation’s history and was the biggest overall reduction since World War II, according to the House Appropriations Committee. But some Republicans opposed that package because the cuts did not go far enough.

Bill Hoagland, a former top Republican Senate Budget Committee staffer who works in government relations for health insurance company CIGNA, said he sees the situation leading to a number of temporary funding extensions, or continuing resolutions. The current fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and lawmakers are expected to need additional time to debate and finish the 12 annual appropriations bills for the next year.

“We will have, I think, a debate between the House leadership, House appropriators and the Senate Democrats over” the $30 billion difference between current spending and the House budget, Hoagland added. “That tells me that we are probably headed for a number of CRs.”

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