The House will miss a Friday deadline for adopting its annual budget resolution due to an intra-party fight, delivering a blow to Speaker Paul D. Ryan who pledged to show this year that Republicans could smoothly handle the basic job of funding the government.
House conservatives have balked at supporting a budget that includes the spending deal struck last year by Republican and Democratic congressional leaders to provide an additional $30 billion in funding this year, depriving GOP leaders of the votes needed to adopt the fiscal blueprint.
There is no practical impact from failing to meet the April 15 deadline laid out in the law governing the budget process, but it is an embarrassment for Ryan who came to prominence in Congress as chairman of the Budget Committee.
On Thursday, Ryan shrugged over the continuing deadlock, arguing that the bipartisan spending deal took away some of the pressure for adopting a fiscal plan.
“To the budget itself, part of the problem is we’re a victim of the success of the fact that we have appropriation numbers already in law,” Ryan told reporters. “We already have an agreement in law and that is — that has taken pressure off of the budget situation. And that’s one of the challenges we’re dealing with.”
But Ryan now faces another political dilemma – should he bring spending bills to the floor later this year that stick to the bipartisan deal? Such a move would anger conservatives who want to keep funding levels in check.
Some conservatives have already begun to express concern that House GOP leaders will move ahead with spending bills absent a budget deal.
“We’ve been told for three months that [a budget is] crucial,” said Rep. David Brat (R-Va.). “Now today none of that matters.”
Brat, who was elected in 2014 after defeating former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) in a primary, said he is frustrated that leaders have been unwilling to accept budget reforms making it easier for the House to cut future spending. He said leaders have been on a listening tour for months, but have yet to agree to any of the ideas to lure conservative support.
Instead, leaders may begin moving non-controversial spending bills as they try and figure a way to appease conservatives on funding levels in hopes of salvaging some of the “regular order” promised when the year began.
“It looks like a double crap sandwich to me right now,” Brat said.
The House will be able to move forward with spending bills without a budget after May 15 and House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) has already begun writing bills in preparation for that day.
Republican leaders could also try to pass a measure adopting the $1.07 trillion spending goal outlined last year by relying on support from moderates and Democrats who still back the agreement.
But that move would also anger conservatives and some House members have been resistant to voting on spending bills without a budget framework. But Ryan would not rule out this strategy.
“We have not foreclosed any of those options,” he said Thursday. “We haven’t decided one way or another.”
Senate leaders, meanwhile, are taking the unusual step of moving ahead with the appropriations process ahead of the House. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he plans to soon begin holding votes on the spending measures and the Appropriations Committee released allocations for each of the 12 spending bills this week.
House conservatives have never accepted the bipartisan deal struck last year when John Boehner was speaker and many hard-line members say they still expect the House to pass a deep-cutting spending blueprint later this year.
“We can’t spend more money because John Boehner and Barack Obama said we have to spend more money,” said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who chairs the roughly 40-member conservative House Freedom Caucus.
He said conservatives can support some spending legislation, like the bill funding military construction and veteran’s affairs programs that was approved in committee on Wednesday. But many other spending items — like legislation to fund health care programs or food stamps — could spark another fiscal brawl.
“If it’s funding the military I’m okay with it,” said Freedom Caucus member Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). “If it’s [Housing and Urban Development] I think there’s some play in there.”
Jordan and other conservatives said they still hope leaders will decide to back a blueprint slashing spending that includes provisions known as budget reconciliation to allow the Senate to vote on GOP-backed polices, such as repealing parts of the Affordable Care Act, without the threat of a filibuster.
“We’re for doing a budget, but we’re for doing one that reflects the fiscal mess we’re in,” Jordan said.
The one thing Ryan and conservatives can agree on is that the budget process is broken. Ryan told reporters on Thursday that he blames the 1974 law that established current budget procedure for the mess lawmakers face.
Ryan has been pushing to change the process since he served as Budget chairman and he said he hopes to include some of those reforms in a series of policy proposals scheduled to be released later this year.
“I’ve spent my adult life looking at the federal budgeting process,” Ryan said. “I believe the budget process overall needs to be overhauled.”
Democrats seemed to enjoy Republicans failure to adopt a budget on time, noting Ryan and other GOP leaders criticized them for failing to adopt fiscal blueprints in the past when they controlled Congress.