Budget Committee GOP divided on August debt deal

Some members want to stick to the $1.047 trillion discretionary spending level set out in August’s Budget Control Act. They want further spending cuts to be taken from mandatory entitlements such as food stamps and Medicaid.

Budget Committee member Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), who also sits on the Appropriations Committee, said Thursday he would not support a budget that goes below the $1.047 trillion level set last August.

Other members want the budget’s discretionary level to be set much lower.

They want Ryan to propose $1.028 trillion in discretionary spending next year — the level he proposed for 2013 in his 2012 budget. They then want to reduce that number by $97 billion, which the Congressional Budget Office says will need to be sequestered next year due to the failure of the debt supercommittee.

That would bring the spending level down to $931 billion.

“It’s going to be difficult to do a budget resolution, because some people want to do it at what the sequestration number would be, $931 billion, that doesn’t pass, some people want to do it at the $1.047 billion … not sure we can pass that,” Simpson said.

Committee member Rep. Scott GarrettScott GarrettConservative groups urge Trump to stick with Ex-Im Bank nominee Can the Washington swamp defeat Trump's nominee to run the Export-Import Bank? Overnight Finance: House votes to repeal arbitration rule | Yellen, Cohn on Trump's list for Fed chief | House passes Russia sanctions deal | GOP centrists push back on border wall funding MORE (R-N.J.) said he favors that number because it draws a bold contrast with President Obama’s budget.

The August debt-ceiling deal required Democratic votes, something Ryan’s budget will be unlikely to get given his desire to transform Medicare to at least a partially privatized system.

If Republican Study Committee members like Garrett stick together, a budget reflecting the August debt deal would likely not pass the House.

Garrett said Thursday, however, that he believes a compromise will be found.

“We will have a budget resolution,” he said.

A Republican aide estimated that 60 to 120 members of the caucus are interested in going deeper in discretionary spending than the August debt deal. The aide also said that somehow a compromise will be found.

Last year, the RSC was allowed to present its own alternative resolution, and that could happen again this year, Garrett said.

An aide to an RSC member said that such an alternative would likely emerge if the House Budget Committee does not cut deeply enough.

The key for RSC members is finding a balanced budget “in a reasonable timeframe,” the aide said. The 2012 Ryan budget did not balance the budget until after 2035. It had deep spending cuts but no new revenue. If spending is set at $931 billion next year, there is a chance to balance the budget in about a dozen years, the aide said.

The RSC aide said members would be open to replacing the sequester with mandatory cuts, but the proposal would have to be viable and RSC members are not comfortable with any cuts to benefits for current senior citizens. 

Panel member Rep. Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackOvernight Finance: House passes .2T funding package for 2018 | FTC launches Equifax probe | Mnuchin defends honeymoon jet request | Floor vote on House Budget unlikely until October Overnight Finance: GOP plans to unveil tax framework in late September | Critical stretch for Trump tax team | Equifax CEO called to testify | Sanders unveils single-payer bill MORE (R-Tenn.) said she, like others on the panel, is still studying the pros and cons of going deeper on discretionary spending.

Ryan has been holding listening sessions with members and intends to bring a budget resolution to the floor before April recess. Meetings will intensify next week, members said.