Conservative House Republicans on Thursday continued to say they wouldn't vote for a budget resolution that sticks to last year's budget deal, even after GOP leaders offered to hold a separate vote on legislation to cut $30 billion in mandatory spending.
"Not inclined to be there, nope," House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, told Roll Call.
House leaders and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., presented a plan to the Republican conference that could spell the end of the budget process for the year. The budget resolution would set fiscal 2017 spending at $1.07 trillion, the number passed in the October budget deal, but members would have an opportunity to vote on a separate package of $30 billion in cuts to mandatory spending over two years.
“The purpose of today was to present where the Budget Committee is having listened to and talked to huge numbers of the conference, and then try to refine it so that it moves forward,” Price told Roll Call. Asked what happens if people aren’t supportive of the proposal, he said, “I think it was laid out pretty clearly that the alternative to this is a [continuing resolution] at the current level, which is $1.067 [trillion]."
Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., called it "a plan forward for how to get not only a good conservative budget and vision but an active appropriations process."
But conservatives, especially members of the House Freedom Caucus, don't see it that way.
"We've got an opportunity really right now to show Americans what Republicans stand for -- and that's not about increasing spending, that's not cuts that will never happen," said caucus member Jeff Duncan, R-S.C.
Freedom Caucus founding member Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said he would not support the current plan. "It doesn’t really move the ball down the field enough other than making a statement," he said.
Duncan and Rep. John Fleming, R-La., a Freedom Caucus founding member, both told reporters they don't believe leadership has the votes to pass the budget resolution and the "sidecar" of cuts, but House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said he believes they can get to the magic number of 218.
"I think most members are going to support it and I feel good about it," Rogers said.
Leadership conducted a "soft whip" on the plan during Thursday's first series of votes, Price said after the series, noting he didn't have the results yet. Meadows said a lot of people were whipping undecided.
While some conservatives had been open to the idea of using mandatory cuts to offset the higher discretionary spending number agreed to in the budget deal, most had said those cuts needed to be made in fiscal 2017.
"I think if people could see concrete reforms in the current year then you would see more people in support of the budget," HFC founding member Justin Amash, R-Mich., said. "What happens is we're always promised that something in the future."
"All that really matters in a budget is the first year," he added.
Like the Freedom Caucus, the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) prefers a budget resolution written to the lower number. They expressed openness to voting for the higher number if offsetting cuts to mandatory spending could be enacted into law.
"We are working on that," RSC Chairman Bill Flores, R-Texas said, when asked if the proposed package of $30 billion in cuts would be enacted. The only realistic way such a package could pass the Senate is through the reconciliation process, which would prevent an otherwise guaranteed Democratic filibuster.
Price declined to detail the proposal he outlined to members during the conference, but said if it gets enough support from the members, his panel will move to mark up the budget as soon possible.
Asked if a floor vote on the sidecar of cuts would be before or after a vote on the budget resolution, Price said, “I think it’s either contemporaneous or shortly after. But that hasn’t been decided and hasn’t been a point of contention.”
Even if there's not enough support to pass the budget, Ryan could still choose to put it on the floor and let it fail, something he said early on in his speakership that he wouldn't shy away from. But when asked if he would commit to bringing up a budget regardless of the level of support, Ryan said he won't be making that decision.
"I’m going to let the House Republican team, our conference members, decide how we proceed on this,” the speaker said.
While Ryan may view his colleagues as teammates, the members still see him as the coach calling the plays.
Asked if there's a plan 'B' should the budget plan 'A' fail to win enough support, Fleming said, “I don’t know. That’s a question for leadership. That’s their problem to solve.”
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