GOP hits a wall with election-year budget plan

GOP hits a wall with election-year budget plan

House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a trillion-dollar budget blueprint that appears dead on arrival within the GOP conference because of opposition to the spending deal negotiated last fall by President Obama and then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio).

About two-dozen fiscal hawks vowed to oppose the House GOP’s plan before it was formally released, which will make passing a budget on the floor difficult for the conference.

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GOP leaders can afford to lose no more than 28 votes to pass the budget, which is typically a party-line vote.

The House Freedom Caucus announced Monday night that it would vote against the plan because GOP leaders have not found a way to offset $30 billion in spending included in the BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE-Obama deal.

“Why in the world would we increase spending $30 billion? It makes no sense to us,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told conservative radio host Andrew Wilkow on Tuesday. “You’ll hear, ‘You need to increase $30 billion because that’s the deal.’ … My attitude is, well, we didn’t agree to that.”

Separately, the conservative group Heritage Action also announced Tuesday that it would rate lawmakers by how they vote on the budget, potentially costing them support during their campaigns.

Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanRyan's home state highlights challenge for GOP high-risk insurer pools Trump 'disappointed' in congressional GOP Bipartisan push grows for new war authorization MORE (Wis.), Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) and other Republicans for weeks have been searching for a solution.

Last week, Ryan instructed House committees to begin drafting budget savings packages — cutting billions of dollars in mandatory spending from programs like Medicare and the Affordable Care Act — in a fight for approval from fiscal hawks.    

The stalemate sets up a potentially explosive intraparty battle during the bill’s markup by the House Budget Committee on Wednesday, as it is unclear whether the blueprint can make it out of the panel.  

“It’s going to be close, probably,” Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the Budget Committee, told The Hill on Tuesday.

Publicly, the heads of both the Budget and the Appropriations committees have struck optimistic tones about getting the budget through the marathon markup on Wednesday.

“I think we’ll be fine,” Price told The Hill on Tuesday. His spending counterpart, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), also told reporters Tuesday he believed the chances looked good despite conservative opposition.

The fight also means the House and Senate will almost certainly be forced to move a short-term spending bill before Sept. 30 to keep the government operating, a maneuver that Ryan has said he abhors.

Ryan, in the first year of his Speakership, has repeatedly touted his desire to move back to regular order — a reference to the House passing 12 individual spending bills — for the first time since 1994.

The failure to approve a House budget wouldn’t completely doom those hopes, but it would make it very difficult.

It could also hurt the party politically. Ryan has for months made the case that passing spending bills is the way to restore regular order and winning back the White House in 2016.

But that message has fallen flat for many conservatives, particularly those in the House Freedom Caucus, who increasingly argue that they shouldn’t support higher spending levels just to see their bill stall in the Senate.

“We have to be careful about chasing the unicorn of regular order in the middle of traffic,” one Freedom Caucus member said during Monday night’s meeting, according to another member in the room.

Senate Republicans have not committed to passing a budget, but several vulnerable GOP senators up for reelection have suggested it would be better to skip the process.

In addition to cutting off a crucial voting bloc, the Freedom Caucus’s opposition to the House budget plan is also 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 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,” Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.), vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus, told reporters Tuesday.

The 155-page GOP budget would repeal ObamaCare, shrink the Commerce Department, strip funding from the Environmental Protection Agency, create a pay-in structure for Medicare and give states control over the food stamps program.

It would cut $7 trillion from the deficit over the next decade but add $89 billion more in military funding than what Obama has proposed.

Several Freedom Caucus members tried to make clear Tuesday that their decision to announce their opposition was not the end of negotiations.

“It’s on life support, but it’s not dead,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) said Tuesday of the GOP’s budget plans.

Rep. Morgan GriffithMorgan GriffithGOP whip won't commit to new CBO score before vote Medicaid work requirements could be added to ObamaCare bill The Hill's Whip List: 36 GOP no votes on ObamaCare repeal plan MORE (R-Va.) said he and others would be willing to support the budget resolution if it was directly attached to the billions of dollars of mandatory spending cuts currently being marked up by House committees.

Those packages are expected to be combined into a legislative sidecar that would receive a separate vote the same day the House voted for the budget resolution.

“The problem is, the Senate will never take up the sidecar,” Griffith said. “I can’t control the Senate, nor did I expect Speaker Ryan to control the Senate, but if you weld the two together, the Senate has to vote to amend out the spending cuts. That’s their action.”

Mike Lillis and Scott Wong contributed.