A group of House Republicans representing viewpoints from across the political spectrum met Tuesday to discuss new ideas for advancing a fiscal 2017 budget resolution.
But the lawmakers acknowledged that a solution would not affect the topline on spending measures the House has already begun moving.
The overall goal is to pass a budget of Republican priorities “that shows what we would do if we were leading all three elected parts of government,” said Republican Study Committee Chairman Bill Flores of Texas.
The members left the meeting, their second, without a deal but with plans to continue the discussions.
“Each of us have things to think about; each of us brought up ideas,” Flores said. “The others have to think about those ideas. And so there will be a critical mass and we’ll have another meeting. I just don’t know when that’s going to be.”
The ideas discussed included lowering the fiscal 2017 discretionary topline in the budget from $1.07 trillion to $1.04 trillion, but with a trigger that would raise it back to the higher level if the House managed to pass 10 of the 12 appropriations bills.
“We talked about the trigger option. We talked about a couple of other things that I don’t want to go into because we didn’t reach a conclusion,” House Freedom Caucus member Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said after the gathering. “We didn’t come to any final conclusions but we left with a bunch of stuff to think about.”
Even if the plan with the lower topline were adopted, Flores said he would still expect the House Appropriations Committee to continue writing the 12 annual spending bills to the $1.07 trillion limit in last year’s budget deal. That’s the limit the Senate is using as it moves its own spending measures.
The Budget Committee approved the tax and spending framework in March, but it has not gained enough support among Republicans to be adopted on the floor.
Dozens of conservatives including Flores, Mulvaney and other members of their groups have refused to vote for a budget resolution with a $1.07 topline. They object to the budget deal that raised statutory discretionary spending caps by $30 billion for fiscal 2017.
If the budget discussion group can reach consensus, Flores said, “we should have success in conference.”
Although declining to say whether the options the group discussed were all tied to the $1.04 trillion topline, Flores predicted leadership could reluctantly get behind that number if the majority of the conference backed it.
“If there’s a whip count to support a $1.04 [trillion] budget, the leadership would probably be fine,” he said. “They wouldn’t like it, I don’t think, but they’d support it.”
Both the Republican Study Committee and the Freedom Caucus have representatives participating in the budget discussions, as well as members of the more moderate Tuesday Group and at least one member of the leadership’s whip team.
The group of GOP lawmakers, which first met Thursday, was assembled at the request of Flores and includes House Budget Chairman Tom Price of Georgia, Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers of Kentucky, Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas, Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Tuesday Group Chairman Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania.
Dent and Rogers did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting. Tuesday Group member Robert J. Dold of Illinois, Budget Committee member Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, were present, bringing the number to eight during this second meeting.
As they exited, most lawmakers declined to go into detail.
Asked if he could support a budget written to $1.04 trillion, Thornberry would only say, “We’re still working.”
Flores declined to give the group a deadline to reach a deal other than to say, “Theoretically we could go to September 30, end of the fiscal year.”