The House budget resolution that has served as a manifesto of Republican Party principles in the past three years is about to get still more conservative.
The fiscal 2015 spending plan House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., plans to release will be filled with an ambitious set of policy provisions aimed at resetting the country’s fiscal order and, perhaps more immediately, setting a party framework for the midterm elections this fall.
The turn to the right on budget issues comes in part because of a changed economic baseline that will make the goal of balancing the budget within a decade more difficult. But it’s also because uniting the GOP caucus behind the policies may be more difficult than it was last year.
Compared with the budget adopted by the House last year (H Con Res 25), the upcoming plan needs about $1.2 trillion in additional deficit reduction to balance in 10 years. The demand for a balanced budget is tougher now because of the Congressional Budget Office’s revised estimate of what the government would spend under existing laws.
Lawmakers say the new budget blueprint will recommend deeper and more accelerated cuts in spending necessary to make up for slower projected revenue growth over the next decade.
That could take the form of deeper cuts to Medicaid, which would be converted to a block grant program in the House budget, or from speeding up the conversion of food stamps into a block grant program. Last year’s budget sought 10-year savings of $810 billion from block granting Medicaid, $636 billion from canceling the Medicaid expansion in the health care overhaul (PL 111-148, PL 111-152), and $125 billion from block granting food stamps.
Even balancing in 10 years may not be enough for some conservatives.
“When they say 10 years, it’s really 11 years compared to the one last year,” Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp said. “I told them I was leaning no.” Huelskamp said he would be more sympathetic to a budget resolution if House leaders allowed votes on a tax overhaul and a conservative health care plan.
Hard-liners such as Huelskamp may be critical to whether the plan even gets a floor vote because of the tough numbers Republican may face on passage in the chamber.
Republicans will need up to 217 votes at present to adopt the budget resolution. That simple majority is almost impossible to get without at least 46 of the 62 Republicans who opposed the December budget deal, many of them conservatives who objected because the plan raised the previous spending levels set under the sequester.
The budget resolution also could draw flak from moderate Republicans who are worried about being attacked by Democrats during the election season for voting to cut Medicare and other spending programs.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.