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Freedom Caucus Position Sounds Death Knell on Budget

Enough Conservatives Oppose Budget to Block It From Passing

"I'm not going to vote for something I voted against last year," Fleming said Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the House Budget Committee prepares to mark up a budget resolution, the conservative Freedom Caucus announced Monday it has enough votes to block the measure's passage on the House floor.  

The Budget Committee sent out notice of the mark up less than hour after the Freedom Caucus gathered Monday night at Tortilla Coast and took an official position against the budget.  

The Freedom Caucus has never released a formal roster of its members but most estimates are around 40. Their caucus rules state they need a four-fifths majority vote to take an official position, meaning that at least 32 members agreed they should not support the budget.  

That's enough to block the Republican budget resolution, which is unlikely to get any Democratic support, from getting the 218 votes needed to pass on the floor.  

Freedom Caucus members have been sounding the alarm for weeks on GOP leaders' plans to set the top line for the budget resolution at $1.07 trillion, the number agreed to in October's budget deal.  

Conservatives say that the majority of Republicans voted against that number and would rather create a fiscal year 2017 budget based on the level set in sequestration, which is $30 billion lower. On Monday, they took officially oppose the $1.07 trillion plan.  

"We're advocating doing a budget resolution at $1040 [billion] just not increasing spending by $30 billion," Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio said.  

House leadership and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., had been trying to appease the concerns and find a way to offset the $30 billion in increased spending.  

Leaders proposed to the GOP conference on March 3 a separate bill of mandatory spending cuts that the House could vote on as a "sidecar" to the budget resolution, and reiterated that plan Monday evening, with some tweaks to the details.  

"A lot of members are looking pretty positive about it," House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters after the meeting.  

But many Freedom Caucus members were not being positive.  

"I'm not going to vote for something I voted against last year," Rep. John Fleming, R-La., said after the conference meeting but before the Freedom Caucus meeting.  

"I don't believe in a side car, which we know is going to be unlinked over in the Senate," he added. "I don't understand -- all that is is just political cover and I don't believe in political cover."  

According to Fleming, Speaker Paul D. Ryan told the conference that he does not want to "rent Democrats" to pass bills, as he urged them to support the budget so they could move onto regular order in the appropriations process.  

"Materially I don't see this as any different than the plan two weeks ago," Fleming said.  

Contact McPherson at lindseymcpherson@cqrollcall.com and follow her on Twitter at lindsemcpherson. Related: Budget Divide Threatens to Kill Short-Lived GOP Unity House Conservatives Refuse Compromise With Ryan On Budget Chances for House Budget Fading as Positions Harden Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.