Top Dem warns GOP budget moves could block bipartisan deal

House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told The Hill Friday that the GOP would make tackling the nation’s budget problems more difficult if it ‘violated’ the August debt-ceiling deal.

The House GOP is debating whether to adopt lower spending caps in its 2013 budget resolution than those in the deal.

Van Hollen believes that the national debt can only be dealt with in a bipartisan deal that involves spending cuts and tax revenue increases.

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Such a deal could come in the lame-duck session when Congress faces expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts triggered by the failure of last year’s debt supercommittee.

“It is hard to make agreements with people who turn around and violate them,” he said. “It obviously doesn’t help the process.”

Van Hollen this year collaborated with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on a line-item veto budget reform bill. Ryan has also said that he wants a bipartisan budget solution but does not believe in raising taxes.


Van Hollen also said the GOP is risking a government shutdown in the fall if it pushes through lower spending levels than called for in August’s Budget Control Act.

"The Republicans on the appropriations committee realize this,” he said. 

The debt-ceiling deal set a cap of $1.047 trillion for 2013 but also imposes a $97 billion automatic cut starting in January.

Republicans are divided over whether to replace these added discretionary spending cuts with mandatory cuts, to reflect them in the budget, or to cut discretionary spending even deeper.  

A compromise top-line number of $1.028 trillion has been floated for next year, but three members who sit on both the budget and appropriations committee are arguing that real cuts to mandatory entitlement spending must come before appropriations are cut below $1.047 trillion.

“We had a negotiated agreement,” Van Hollen said. “This just shows the power of the Tea Party wing of the House caucus.”

The three appropriators have the votes to block a budget from coming out of committee if all 16 Democrats vote against the GOP budget. Van Hollen said he could not guarantee what his colleagues would do, but said that if the GOP resolution is similar to last year’s, his members would show up to vote against cuts to Medicare.

Budget committee Democrats are meeting regularly to come up with their own budget alternative. The GOP proposal and Democratic alternative are slated to come to a vote by the end of March.

Van Hollen said that the Democratic budget, like last year, would include revenues from the wealthy.

Last year’s House Democratic budget had greater savings from cutting war spending than the White House proposal. Van Hollen said that this year’s budget would include elements of Obama’s Jobs Act.