Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Wednesday that members are discussing whether Congress should prepare a budget reconciliation measure this year that it could pass next year and send to the next president.
Reconciliation is a tool that Congress can use to bypass a Senate filibuster and get a bill through both chambers with simple majority votes. Republicans used reconciliation to approve legislation to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act and defund Planned Parenthood. Obama vetoed that measure last month, but GOP lawmakers have said if a Republican wins the White House in November, they could use the reconciliation process to repeal and replace Obama's signature health care law.
Ryan reiterated Wednesday that he expects to adhere to the spending levels set in a budget deal last fall, a sticking point with the GOP's most conservative members. As he looks for ways to get those members to support an upcoming budget resolution, reconciliation could become a negotiating tool. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., acknowledged as much a few weeks ago when Republicans gathered for their annual retreat.
No decisions have been made yet about whether Republicans will pursue that strategy. That's contingent on both chambers passing a budget, something that is not a sure thing at the moment.
But the prospect of reconciliation, and teeing up a bill for the next president to sign, is something that could entice more members to support a budget resolution, and, according to Ryan, it's something members are discussing.
"Knowing the budget process you can do reconciliation in two rounds if you wanted to because it’s the prevailing budget resolution that prevails until a new one replaces it, and in a calendar year that can happen," the former Budget Committee chairman said. "I think that’s one of the things that a lot of members are talking about.”
Conservatives have been protesting GOP leaders' plans to write the budget resolution to the fiscal 2017 spending level agreed to in last year's budget negotiations. The extra $30 billion in domestic spending that deal provides is still a sore point for many members who believe something needs to be done now to address the growing deficit.
"That's not a Republican budget," House Freedom Caucus member Raúl R. Labrador, R-Idaho, told Roll Call Wednesday as he left a GOP conference meeting with caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and member Justin Amash, R-Mich.
"They need to lower the amount and we will vote for it," Labrador added.
Asked if all 40 members of the conservative caucus would stand united against the budget if the fiscal 2017 spending level isn't lowered, Jordan and Labrador said they were still talking.
Ryan, who described the budget talks as family conversation that takes place every year, said he's confident that members will be able to work out their disagreements. That not only includes conservative concerns over increased spending but a belief from some defense hawks that the war fund should be increased beyond the levels set in the budget deal.
“There are a lot of concerns," the Wisconsin Republican said. "Most concerns can be accommodated within our budget. And not everybody gets to have what they want, simply because Barack Obama is president.”
Ryan said sticking to the numbers in last year's budget deal is key to moving all 12 appropriations bills through the House, as the Speaker has promised to do. He's confident members will support that goal.
“We believe that in order to have a good, working, viable appropriations process we’re going to appropriate to these numbers because we have agreement on these numbers," Ryan said. "It’s very important. We think that the Senate is in a much better place than they ever were so that we can have a functioning appropriations process.”
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