Congressional Republicans Follow Different Strategies on Budget

Posted March 13, 2009 at 1:29pm

In combating President Barack Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget blueprint, Republicans in the House and Senate are coordinating their political messaging, but following divergent paths on legislative strategy.

House Republicans — cognizant of being labeled “the party of no— by the White House and Congressional Democrats — are preparing a comprehensive alternative budget proposal under the direction of Budget Committee ranking member Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Republicans plan to unveil the document when Obama’s budget, as amended by House Democrats, hits the House floor.

But Senate Republicans, with more parliamentary tools at their disposal to shape policy, are holding their fire pending markup of the president’s proposal in the Budget Committee, likely to occur the week of March 23. Senate Republicans will probably shy away from offering a blanket alternative budget altogether, GOP sources said, choosing instead to use the amendment process to recast Obama’s budget, just as they did with the recently passed $790 billion economic stimulus package.

“Our final strategy on the budget hasn’t been determined,— one senior Senate GOP aide said. “But what was successful previously was offering amendments on their merits rather than one vote [on an alternative budget] that would likely result in a partisan outcome.—

The fiscal 2010 budget resolution, expected to largely mirror Obama’s proposal given the strong Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, is likely to pass by mid-April and will be non binding. But the resolution will likely set the table for many of the upcoming legislative battles.

The differing strategies by House and Senate Republicans are partly due to the difference in how each chamber functions.

In the House, the rules allow the majority party to exert virtually complete control over the legislative process, leaving the minority with little power to amend a bill.

But in confirming Thursday that House Republicans would be offering a budget alternative to Obama’s proposal, Ryan suggested a practical and political motive.

“We will be offering an alternative budget,— Ryan told reporters. “I think it’s our obligation that if we don’t think this administration is going in the right direction — if we’re going to be offering criticism, which is obviously what we’re doing — we owe it to our employers, the American people, to show them a different pathway, a different vision, how we would do things differently.—

The Democratic National Committee on Friday unveiled a “Party of No— clock intended to highlight how many days in a row Republicans have attempted to “obstruct— Obama’s budget proposal since its introduction on Feb. 26. Despite the myriad amendments to White House proposals offered by Senate Republicans, as well as the alternative plans pitched by House Republicans to several of Obama’s legislative initiatives, some public polling has shown that Americans view the GOP as an obstructionist.

Although their legislative strategies differ, House and Senate Republicans have been one voice on political messaging.

Ryan and Senate Budget Committee ranking member Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) have appeared together regularly to oppose Obama’s budget and other spending priorities. In fact, Gregg was scheduled to join Ryan on Thursday at a Capitol news conference on Obama’s budget plan but was called away on other matters.

Additionally, Senate Republican Conference Chairman Lamar Alexander (Tenn.) appeared this week at a joint news conference with House GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) also held a joint news conference to push back against the president and Congressional Democrats.

The cross-chamber GOP refrain? Obama’s budget “taxes too much, borrows too much and spends too much.—