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RSC chairman: Passing budget will be 'tougher' this year

RSC chairman: Passing budget will be 'tougher' this year

It may be difficult to get conservatives to vote for the House budget if the resolution follows the spending levels reached in last year’s budget deal, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) said Wednesday.

In an interview with The Hill, Rep. Bill FloresBill FloresHouse approves funding bill, but fate in Senate unclear Texas lawmaker defends HGTV hosts House freshman wins RSC chair MORE (R-Texas) warned that getting his RSC members to support the official House GOP budget blueprint would be "tougher" this year. The group's members would prefer spending on non-defense programs to be lower than the level leaders agreed to last year, he said.

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The RSC, which includes more than 170 conservative House members, releases an alternative budget annually in an effort to pull the main House Republican budget to the right. An RSC task force met Tuesday to start to work on its fiscal year 2017 plan.  

"What we're focused on doing this year is writing a strong, bold, conservative budget, and that incorporates conservative reforms that we want to see enacted in the House budget," Flores said.

The budget deal enacted in the fall — which was negotiated between the White House and then-House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerBoehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt Boehner: 'Thank God' I wasn't in the middle of election Ryan delays committee assignments until 2017 MORE (R-Oiho) before his departure — raised the spending caps for both defense and non-defense discretionary spending for fiscal 2016 and 2017.

Flores said he expects that the RSC's budget will match the defense discretionary spending levels in the budget deal but will set non-defense discretionary spending at a level that is "well below" last year.

The RSC has a "yes, yes, strategy,” Flores said, that involves getting RSC members and other conservatives to vote for the RSC budget and then also vote for the House budget on the floor.

"If the House Budget [Committee] members are written to the October budget deal, the ‘yes, yes’ strategy's tougher," he said. "We're going to do all we can to get there, but it is a little tougher." 

The RSC is aiming to release its budget  before the House Republican budget is rolled out. The House budget is expected to be unveiled the last week of February and see a floor vote the first week of March. 

Last year's RSC budget balanced within six years. While this year's budget will balance in under 10 years, it may take longer than six years to balance because the Congressional Budget Office is projecting larger deficits. The baseline deficit is higher because of three main factors: lower revenues, slow economic growth and additional spending, Flores said. 

Compensating for slow growth will be easy because of the RSC's tax and regulatory policies and plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare. To close the spending gap, "we're going to have to dig into the mandatory programs," Flores said.

The group proposed reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security last year and will include those same policies again this year with refinements. 

"You should see bolder policy options coming from that," he said.

The RSC budget will also again defund Planned Parenthood.

"Let's make sure we express this correctly. It is more than defunding Planned Parenthood," Flores said. "It is taking money away from a group that doesn't provide comprehensive women's healthcare" and moving it over to other clinics that are eligible for federal funds.

The tax component to the RSC budget is expected to be fairly similar to what was proposed last year. The group will probably again call for top individual and corporate tax rates of 25 percent, Flores said, down from the current top individual and corporate rates of 39.6 percent and 35 percent, respectively.