House Budget Rollout Steams Ahead With Wednesday Markup
Plan's Fate Rests With House Freedom Caucus
A fiscal 2017 budget resolution released by the House Budget Committee Tuesday seeks to win support from dissident conservatives through a combination of assumed cuts in mandatory spending programs and new budget rules.
It will be marked up by the panel at 10 a.m. Wednesday, despite continuing uncertainty over the plan’s fate on the House floor given opposition by House Freedom Caucus conservatives.
“We’re proceeding with our plan,” Speaker Paul D. Ryan , R-Wis., told reporters of the budget rollout. “And at the end of the day, the decision will be made by all of the members of the Republican conference. And we want to work together to get this done, but it’s going to be a . . . decision left up to our members.”
The tax and spending framework, which does not go to the president and cannot become a law, lays out a path for Congress to balance the budget in 10 years by cutting spending by $6.5 trillion. Combined with projected savings from dynamic scoring estimates of the impact of repealing the 2010 health care law and overall deficit reduction, the budget would save $7 trillion over a decade, according to the document .
GOP aides said the budget, written by House Budget Chairman Tom Price , R-Ga., envisions reducing the deficit by more than any previous committee proposal and provides less money for discretionary programs, which make up about one-third of the budget, than was being spent in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis.
While the budget stays with the fiscal 2017 discretionary spending caps from last year’s budget deal, which are $551 billion for defense and $518.5 billion for non-defense, it assumes defense spending will rise and non-defense spending will be reduced in relation to the statutory spending caps and inflation over the subsequent nine years.
Members of the Freedom Caucus already have dismissed the mandatory program cuts because there is no guarantee — in fact it is unlikely — they would get through the Senate and be signed by President Barack Obama.
But the proposed budget offers another avenue to potential support. Since it is not a law, a budget resolution can only assume that certain policies are enacted.
In a policy statement, the document offers suggested budget rules under the assumption that the House will consider legislation this year that could include various restrictions on mandatory spending growth. These would include limiting the ability to reclassify discretionary spending as mandatory spending, which already has arisen as a point of contention between the administration and Congress; limiting the authorization of new mandatory spending programs; and requiring mandatory spending programs to be reviewed and reauthorized.
Rep. Mark Sanford , R-S.C., a member of the Budget Committee and the Freedom Caucus, plans to vote for the resolution in committee but likely not on the floor. “I think that sort of the rules of engagement of being on the Budget Committee, that you bring whatever it is to the floor, and then I would vote against it on the floor,” he said.
Asked whether other Freedom Caucus members will stall it in committee, and whether he was urging them to send it to the floor, Sanford said, “It’s a tug of war of wills at this point. And so, you empathize with leadership wherein they say, ‘Well, wait a minute, if I go the other direction, I’m going to lose 70 defense hawks. If I go in the direction of the budget hawks, maybe I’m going to lose 40. And so it would take Solomon in all his wisdom to divine the right spot on the tug of war, but it is really a test of wills.”
The plan also provides new details on the effort to move a package of mandatory spending cuts through the House, noting that the Financial Services and Judiciary committees are being tasked to find savings.
The Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees are marking up legislation this week. The budget assumes at least $30 billion in cuts over two years and at least $140 billion over 10 years.
Additional budget savings could emerge from reconciliation instructions in the document, which tasks 12 House committees, including the Agriculture panel, with reporting legislation to reduce the deficit by a combined minimum of more than $8 billion over a decade. The committees are required to produce the legislation within 90 days after the House and Senate agree on a budget resolution conference report — assuming that happens.
Striking a balance on defense, the budget resolution retains the $551 billion cap on base defense spending, but assumes that $23 billion of the $74 billion in funding from the Overseas Contingency Operations account will be shifted to the base defense budget. That would provide a total of $574 billion for basic defense needs. The plan also leaves the door open for Congress to seek additional emergency funding beyond the $74 billion.
Ryan McCrimmon and Ellyn Ferguson contributed to this report.
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