House passes budget in win for GOP

Greg Nash

The House on Thursday passed a Republican budget that would boost defense spending, slash social welfare programs and target ObamaCare, in what GOP leaders cast as a victory for fiscal sanity.

The joint House-Senate budget, which was unveiled on Wednesday, passed by a 226-197 margin, with 14 Republicans joining every Democrat in opposition.

The 14 Republicans who voted against the budget were Reps. Justin AmashJustin AmashDozens of GOP lawmakers staying away from Trump's convention House uprising thwarts change to Patriot Act GOP angst grows over Trump MORE (Mich.), Rick CrawfordRick CrawfordWhy a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Convention calendar: Parties and events Southern lawmakers fight to keep USDA catfish inspections MORE (Ark.), John Duncan (Tenn.), Chris Gibson (N.Y.), David Jolly (Fla.), Walter Jones (N.C.), John Katko (N.Y.), Raul Labrador (Idaho), Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Martha McSally (Ariz.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), David SchweikertDavid SchweikertFormer GOP congressman lobbying for electric cars Senate races heating up Tea Party class reassesses record MORE (Ariz.) and Ryan Zinke (Mont.).

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Republican leaders have pointed to the budget framework, which balances in a decade by cutting more than $5 trillion from spending, as yet more proof that an all-GOP Congress is governing effectively. The Senate is expected to pass the combined budget next week.

"We are set to adopt the first balanced budget of this kind in over a decade," House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) said Thursday. "The American people can't live on borrowed money. The federal government ought not to do so either."

But getting the joint budget to the House floor was not without complications. Sen. Bob CorkerBob CorkerTrump starts considering Cabinet Trump's secret weapon is Ivanka Senate Dems introduce Iran sanctions extension MORE (R-Tenn.) held up the framework for days, insisting the budget relied too heavily on gimmicks.

And even as the House passed the first joint GOP budget in roughly a decade, Republicans were already seeing signs that they would face difficulties — including a divide between defense and fiscal hawks — as they seek to turn the top-line budget numbers into fleshed-out spending bills.

The GOP budget, crafted by Price and Sen. Mike EnziMike EnziSanford-Enzi 'Penny Plan' gets nation to a balanced budget Majority of GOP senators to attend Trump convention Judd Gregg: The silver lining MORE (R-Wyo.), sticks to the budget ceiling of $1.017 trillion for fiscal 2016 that was put into place by the 2011 deal to raise the debt ceiling.

But to win over defense hawks, the framework gives a more than $90 billion boost to an off-the-books war fund that critics on both sides of the aisle have termed a “slush fund.” The spending caps for next year limit defense spending to $523 billion, and funding for non-defense domestic initiatives to $493 billion.

Republicans also seek $430 billion worth of cuts to Medicare, though the joint framework drops the controversial plan from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanKoch officials skeptical of Trump's alleged meeting invite Trump draws backlash for comments on slain soldier's father Muslim DNC speaker challenges GOP leaders to call Trump out MORE (R-Wis.) that offered seniors the chance to use subsidies to purchase private insurance.

Medicaid, food stamps and other safety net programs would face cuts as well under the GOP plan. But for many conservatives, the major draw of the plan was the chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act through a budgetary maneuver known as reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate.

"What a difference a year makes," said Rep. Diane BlackDiane BlackHouse approves bill to shield anti-abortion healthcare workers Conscience rights under threat in US HHS chief meets with House Republicans on abortion dispute MORE (R-Tenn.), a member of the budget conference committee.

President Obama would veto any measure that rolled back his signature healthcare law. And in a sign that Washington could be headed for another showdown on spending, the president has vowed to veto any measure that keeps the caps for domestic spending.

Key Republicans acknowledge that they’ll have a tough time getting spending measures to the president’s desk. That’s sparked chatter that Congress might need another broader spending deal, like the one struck by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty MurrayPatty MurrayFlorida: 'High likelihood' of first Zika transmission in the US Our children, our future – bridging the partisan divide Overnight Energy: Officials close in on new global emissions deal MORE (D-Wash.) in 2013.

“It’s going to be tough to pass these bills,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) told reporters on Thursday.

House Republicans have passed a budget in each of the last five years they’ve controlled the chamber, but have also had to pull spending bills, like a measure to fund transportation programs in 2013.

On Wednesday, House GOP leaders delayed a vote on a spending measure for Veterans’ Affairs and military construction, the first of 12 annual appropriations bills and typically one of the easiest to pass.

The delay, forced by a proposal from Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) that would start to undercut the increased spending in the off-budget war fund, muddied the GOP leaders’ message, after days in which Republican brass touted both the balanced budget and what they termed the earliest start to the appropriations process in four decades.

Some Republicans are expected to back both that proposal and the House budget.

Mulvaney said Thursday that they would seek to roll back the war funding in every spending bill they could, underscoring the trouble the House might face on spending bills.

“We are naïve to think we can raise spending on things we like, and not raise spending on things we don’t like,” Mulvaney said.

Cristina Marcos contributed.

This story was updated at 6:46 p.m.

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