Dems on GOP budget: 'The inmates are running the asylum'

Greg Nash

House Democratic leaders are hammering Republicans over their struggle to rally support for a 2017 budget proposal.

"We see the self-destructing nature of the Republican caucus once again," Rep. Joe Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday morning in the Capitol.

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"It shows the level of dysfunctionality that exists within the Republican majority." 

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan not yet ready to endorse Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report Ryan decries 'bitterness' in politics MORE (R-Wis.) and Republican leaders are pressing forward with a plan to adopt a new spending blueprint in the face of conservative opposition to a deal cut last year by President Obama and former Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerReid: We're not breaking the budget deal Overnight Finance: GOP makes its case for impeaching IRS chief | Clinton hits Trump over housing crash remarks | Ryan's big Puerto Rico win House GOP changes rules to thwart Dems MORE (R-Ohio). 

But members of the Freedom Caucus voted Monday night to oppose the two-pronged strategy of Ryan and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.). The strategy would retain the $1.07 trillion Obama-BoehnerJohn BoehnerReid: We're not breaking the budget deal Overnight Finance: GOP makes its case for impeaching IRS chief | Clinton hits Trump over housing crash remarks | Ryan's big Puerto Rico win House GOP changes rules to thwart Dems MORE spending levels while seeking to cut $30 billion elsewhere in the budget. 

The opposition from the conservative group, which is roughly 40 members strong, all but ensures the failure of the budget on the House floor. The blueprint might not even clear the Budget Committee, which includes a handful of Freedom Caucus members.

A failure to pass a budget would be an embarrassment for Ryan, a former Budget chairman whose reputation as the GOP's star policy wonk was solidified with his work on annual spending blueprints. 

His struggles are a clear indication that the conservative forces that pushed Boehner out of Washington haven't dissolved simply because Ryan now has the gavel. It's a dynamic not lost on the Democrats, who have long criticized GOP leaders for allowing an intransigent conservative minority to steer the ship. 

"In many respects, the inmates are running the asylum," Crowley said.

Rep. John YarmuthJohn YarmuthA case for the Yarmuth-Price resolution Subcommittee clears bill on cap for phone, internet subsidies Lawmakers split on cap for internet, phone subsidies at hearing MORE (Ky.), the second-ranking Democrat on the Budget Committee, piled on, predicting the Freedom Caucus opposition likely kills any new budget agreement this year.

"This is a sign of the problems inherent in the Republican Party right now. When you have people who really don't believe in government, who want to emasculate government at every possible turn," Yarmuth said. "They want to starve the beast so that the beast looks like it cannot provide the kinds of services the American people want." 

Ryan, for his part, says Republican leaders haven't given up on passing a new resolution. 

"We're proceeding with our plan," Ryan told reporters Tuesday in the Capitol.

The Speaker also amplified his previous vow not to adopt the top-down approach that angered conservatives under Boehner's tenure. 

"At the end of the day, the decision will be made by all of the members of the Republican conference," he said. "We want to work together to get this done, but it's going to be a decision … left up to our members."

But that, the Democrats argue, has been the problem in a GOP conference where the Freedom Caucus has the numbers to sink any agreement negotiated with Democrats.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), the minority whip, said this week that the bottom-up approach is the root of the Republicans' troubles.  

"It continues to be the problem, where the tail wags the dog," Hoyer said Monday. 

"Ryan is just caught in a position where he's got a party that does not want to cooperate with one another," he added. "It's true at the presidential level and true at the congressional level."