House Republicans are running out of time to adopt a budget and their leaders plan to make a major push this week to rally members behind a spending plan.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wisc.) has been working for weeks with House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) to convince hardline conservatives to back a budget that includes $30 billion in new spending agreed to last year as part of a bipartisan deal. Republican leaders hope to devote much of the next few days to convincing conservatives to back the spending blueprint — with Price’s committee tentatively scheduled to vote on a proposal later this week, according to several GOP aides.
Key to the sales pitch is a plan to offset the cost of the increased spending for the annual appropriations bills by slashing funding or finding savings elsewhere in the budget, such as in Medicaid and social services grant programs.
Several House committees will consider legislation this week that would make these cuts in order to show wavering Republicans that leadership is serious about reining in spending.
Ryan and Price are expected to outline the plan during a special House GOP meeting Monday night in hopes of making some progress after weeks of GOP stalemate.
Ryan has made passing all 12 annual appropriations bills a key goal for the year as part of his effort to show voters that the GOP is able to govern after years of much-maligned massive, year-end budget deals. In order to do that, the House will have to approve a budget resolution, which lays the groundwork for the year’s spending and tax policy work, including the $30 billion in extra funding Republican and Democratic leaders agree to last year.
Otherwise the annual spending bills have little chance of getting through the Senate, all but ensuring a battle later this election year over how to keep the government funded.
Senate Republicans have already decided to move forward with spending bills that adhere to last year’s bipartisan agreement, putting pressure on the House to do the same.
Earlier this month, House leaders tried to appease wavering members’ concerns by offering a vote on legislation to trim $30 billion from mandatory spending programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. But Conservatives balked and leaders returned to the drawing board.
Under the latest plan from leadership, the House Ways and Means, Energy Commerce and Budget Committees are all expected to hold votes on legislation this week. The hope, according to several aides, is that if the bills are approved by a wide margin in committee then as many as 100 Republican budget skeptics will feel pressure to embrace the plan when it comes to the floor.
The bulk of the proposed savings would come from three bills introduced last week by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The committee is expected to consider legislation Wednesday that would to cut $98 billion over 10 years. One bill would require taxpayers to include a Social Security number when filing for the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit, another would require taxpayers to repay any improper payments of health care subsidies. The third provision would phase out block grants for social service programs.
“The American people want Congress to fight fraud and cut wasteful spending – and that’s what these bills do,” Brady said in statement. “The Ways and Means Committee will continue to take action to protect taxpayer dollars and make government programs more accountable.”
The Energy and Commerce Committee is scheduled this week to consider an additional $25 billion in cuts to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Obamacare Prevention Fund.
It is unclear if conservatives will accept the new approach. Many of the cuts being considered were approved by the House in 2012 only to be ignored by the Senate. There is no evidence that the Senate has warmed to any of the proposals.
House conservatives are already skeptical that the Senate will follow through on any promises about the budget process, which was on display when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) visited a House GOP meeting earlier this month. Several members questioned if he could guarantee that Democrats wouldn’t filibuster spending bills, according to members and aides who were in the room.