Frustrated Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee on Monday increased their pressure on the stalled budget conference committee to reach a deal.
All 12 of the GOP subcommittee "cardinals" joined Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) on a letter demanding a budget agreement by this week, or by Dec. 2 at the latest. The deal should at minimum include top-line spending levels for fiscal 2014 and 2015, appropriators said.
Angst is mounting in Congress about the work of the budget conference, which has met only twice despite the dwindling number of days on the legislative calendar. The panel is not scheduled to meet this week, according to aides.
The GOP appropriators warned House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that failure to get a deal will result in “extremely damaging repercussions,” including wasteful spending and economic harm due to indiscriminate sequester cuts.
Government funding runs out on Jan. 15, and the spending panel wants to pass a detailed appropriations bill by the deadline.
“We urge you to redouble your efforts toward that end and report common, topline levels for both the House and Senate before the Thanksgiving recess, or by December 2 at the latest,” the letter states. “The American people deserve a detailed budget blueprint that makes rational and intelligent choices on funding by their elected representatives, not by a meat ax.”
Rogers had already called for a deal before Thanksgiving, in an October letter with Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). The new letter is a potent reminder that the Appropriations Committee is a powerful voting bloc in the House GOP conference, currently with 26 members.
The letter lists the “specter” of another government shutdown, government by outdated continuing resolution and a second sequester hitting defense.
“In addition, failure to agree on a common spending cap for 2015 will guarantee another year of confusion,” the letter states.
Among those signing the letter was Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the newly appointed chairman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee. Cole sits on the Budget panel as well, and told The Hill last week that members might try to “freelance” a deal if Ryan and Murray don't get moving.
So far, Democrats have demanded tax increases as part of even a small deal to replace the sequester, which Republicans have ruled out.
But Cole has said that there is enough nontax revenue, such as increasing user fees or selling government property, to smooth passage of a win-win deal.