Boehner tries to keep budget from becoming an election year issue
By Lori Montgomery,
For months, congressional Republicans have hammered Senate Democrats for failing to pass a budget. Now, with their majority position on the line in the November elections, GOP House members are having budget troubles of their own.
Conservatives are pressing House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) and other GOP leaders to slash 2013 agency budgets below levels set during last year’s debt-limit showdown, arguing that the deal did too little to curb spending.
While that move might impress tea party voters, it would put them at odds with Democrats and even Republicans in the Senate, who are eager to get through the summer and fall without another nasty spending fight that could shut down the government five weeks before voters head to the polls.
Congressional approval ratings plummeted after last year’s budget drama, and many House Republicans also aren’t keen to repeat the experience. On Thursday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) met with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other GOP members of the panel to try to settle the dispute. Aides said there was no resolution.
“Today’s meeting was productive and will lead to a budget resolution that addresses the major fiscal challenges facing our country and ensures that hard-earned taxpayer dollars are spent responsibly,” said Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon.
Ryan aides declined to comment Thursday. In an interview last week, Ryan declined to take sides. He is due to unveil his latest spending plan March 20, one week after congressional budget analysts release their reestimate of President Obama’s budget request.
“We haven’t finished writing the budget yet. We’re in the middle of all these conversations as a team,” Ryan said, adding that he “is not really worried” about inviting the threat of another government shutdown.
But GOP sources said Ryan is leading the charge for lower spending, and many in the party are worried. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that he is “uncomfortable” lowering the budget caps for next year. Republican sources said a consensus appeared to be developing around $1.028 trillion — which would require appropriators to find an extra $19 billion in cuts.
Democrats pounced on the disarray Thursday, warning Boehner and his team not to renege on the hard-fought debt-limit arrangement.
“If House Republicans walk away from the agreement their own speaker made less than a year ago, then they will show that a deal with them isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on,” said Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), who served as the Democratic chairman of last fall’s debt-reduction “supercommittee.”
“Republicans are playing with fire here, and I urge them to not cave to their most conservative members and to stick to the budget levels we already agreed to last year,” Murray said.