BALTIMORE — House Republicans say they will share their budget plans with all the Republican presidential contenders in hopes of getting buy in from the eventual nominee.
"We've reached out to every single [Republican candidates'] team to try talk to them about all sorts of issues — tax policy and health care and budget policy in the like," House Budget Chairman Tom Price said. "All the conversations were wonderfully magnanimous."
The goal, the Georgia Republican said, is for the GOP nominee to support the principles Republicans will outline in the fiscal 2017 budget blueprint, the House version of which is expected to appear in late February.
"Our budget ought to be one of the guideposts for the nominee to be able to look to and say those are the folks I want to be with," he said. "And I think that’s part of the budget yes, but it’s also part of the agenda that we're working on."
Price indicated it was too early to know specifics of this year's version of the budget, such as whether there will be reconciliation language to bypass filibuster threats in the Senate. But Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said in an interview with Roll Call that Republicans very well could use the fiscal 2017 budget resolution to create a pathway for the next president to roll back the Affordable Care Act, perhaps within the first hundred days.
"We now have clear evidence and background now that shows that the parliamentarian will allow us to put a number of repealing sections in a reconciliation bill. That will save us months next year," Rounds told Roll Call. "We can once again do a reconciliation process that will repeal Obamacare, but we don't deliver that to the president until the next president gets here."
But passing a repeal bill similar to the one recently vetoed by President Barack Obama would be incredibly problematic for the health care system without a replacement plan, which the GOP has long discussed but yet to develop.
"Until we are in a position to get a new president to actually sign a repeal of Obamacare, the president's going to veto it. So it's really more of a hypothetical," Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas told reporters at the retreat. "It is true that we haven't unified around a single bill but we also recognized the chances of passing them through the Senate where you need 60 votes in order to get cloture, and a presidential signature are pretty small. And so I think when the opportunity presents itself where we actually think we have a chance to get a president to sign a bill into law and get it to his desk, I think you'll see us unified."
Price said the conference seemed to come to consensus at the retreat that those with ideas for overhauling the healthcare system should come together and work out any differences between their plans "so that the conference can rally around a single piece of legislation."
Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores of Texas suggested more than half of the House Republican Conference would want to see a vote on an Obamacare replacement.
"But then there's going to be a more reserved component of the conference that wouldn’t want to do that because it might be tough in an election," Flores said.
Flores said he is among those who would like to put together a plan and vote on it but doesn’t see a reason to do it this year.
"If we do a good enough job of putting together a great bill, and we can get the American people to buy into it, have the vote next year when you’ve got the right president in office," he said. "I can find a way to get comfortable with either side of the equation."
Price said it was up for debate if any actual reconciliation bill could somehow carry over from one Congress to the next, but that using reconciliation to advance GOP priorities could help entice conservatives who oppose the funding levels set in last October's budget deal to support the budget resolution.
While addressing health care would also make sense, Flores said his personal preference would be to focus the bill on overcoming the Senate's usual procedural hurdles for changing welfare programs.
Asked whether a reconciliation measure would be moved this year or could be saved for the next president, Price said, "I've had differing opinions on it and working on getting the answer to that. It would surprise me just kind of logically that a reconciliation bill can survive a Congress. But it may, and we’re working with our counsels to see whether or not that’s the case."
If it's possible to hold a reconciliation for the next president, "it would go into the equation of what our strategy would be," Price added.
Of course, all of this advance planning would be for naught if Democrats take back the majority in the Senate or retain control of the White House, since any effort to roll back Obamacare would be veto-bait with a president such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt.
Clinton, for instance, during a town hall meeting in Davenport Iowa on Jan. 4, blasted the House for taking up the reconciliation bill that Obama ultimately vetoed.
"We need a president, just as President Obama will, to veto that. But if there's a Republican sitting there, it will be repealed. And then we will have to start all over again," Clinton said. "So when I think about what's at stake in this election, I don't think the stakes could be higher."
Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.
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