Hoyer: Budget to Hit Floor in Late March

Posted March 5, 2009 at 9:56am

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the budget resolution should be on the floor the week of March 30 — and he said discussions are under way about whether to include special rules for moving health care and energy bills.

The schedule could end up with budget votes on April Fool’s Day in what would surely lead to endless groan-worthy assaults from Republicans.

Meanwhile, the most important decision for Democrats to make on the budget is whether to include reconciliation instructions for moving controversial health or cap-and-trade bills through the Senate. Those rules exempt reconciliation bills from Senate-led filibusters, but some senior Democrats, including Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Sen. Robert Byrd (W.Va.), are resisting the idea.

“It’s under discussion because obviously for a number of these things reconciliation would be useful,— Hoyer said.

Hoyer said he’s spoken to President Barack Obama’s budget director, Peter Orszag, about the possibility, and said talks are also under way with the Senate. The president’s proposal to slice subsidies for student-loan lenders also has been talked about as a potential reconciliation item.

Hoyer noted that some Senators have resisted the idea, and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) has talked about trying to get as many as 80 votes for a health-care package.

“If he has 80 votes, then we don’t need reconciliation,— Hoyer noted.

He added that a major energy package could be on the House floor by Memorial Day, and health care overhaul legislation before the August recess.

Hoyer hedged on whether the early energy package would include the cap-and-trade language but said it was a possibility. He said the House would try and coordinate with the Senate to avoid having the House pass things that won’t make it through the other chamber.

The Majority Leader said he still strongly supports moving forward with comprehensive Social Security reform even though the administration has indicated that it may want to do health care first.

“Social Security is probably easier to do in some respects and less expensive,— Hoyer said. “On the Republican side, I think there is still an energy present to address the Social Security issue. I certainly share that and the president shares that.—