House Budget panel clears $3.8T Republican spending plan

Francis Rivera

The House Budget Committee cleared the latest GOP fiscal framework on Thursday, after Republican leaders struggled to mediate between defense and fiscal hawks.

ADVERTISEMENT
The committee passed the first budget from new Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) on a 22-13 party-line vote.

However, Republicans might not be done fiddling with their budget, which is likely to hit the House floor next week, as defense hawks continue to ensure that $20 billion in defense spending doesn’t require offsets elsewhere in the budget.

That change is likely to get shored up in the House Rules Committee, according to members of both the Budget and Armed Services committees.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), who led a group of 70 House Republicans seeking more robust defense spending in the budget, signaled Thursday that he could back the latest compromise, and that the GOP had finally found the way out of its problem.

"I’m whipping for this. I think this solves the issues that we need and we’ll provide enough funding for our national security," Turner said. "I think there’s significant momentum behind this. And I think certainly the people who were concerned that we were underfunding national security are going to support it now that the number’s higher."

Even with the successful committee vote, the budget raised questions about the GOP leadership’s ability to wrangle their conference, after a string of high-profile failures on the floor already this year. Republicans were also able to pass each of the last four budgets from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanClinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform Trump is right about one thing MORE (R-Wis.) with little drama in the Budget Committee, and with votes to spare on the House floor.

"Completing work on the budget is always one of the toughest jobs we have all year,” Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ohio) told reporters on Thursday.

"There is overwhelming support in our conference for providing additional resources to protect our national security,” BoehnerJohn BoehnerConservative allies on opposite sides in GOP primary fight Clinton maps out first 100 days The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE added. “In consultation with Chairman Price next week the House will consider a rule that reflects those priorities."

"We agreed this morning that the rule will reflect a higher overseas contingency account number to reflect the wishes of a large number of our members."

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his chief deputy, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), went around Price to see if the committee could pass an amendment from Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) that would assuage the defense hawks.

Price had been saying he didn’t think his committee could clear a proposal to no longer require offsets for a portion of the roughly $90 billion in extra defense spending from an overseas war fund.

But the leadership pressed ahead with the Rokita amendment anyway, and even a late-night visit from House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to the Budget Committee on Wednesday was unable to break the impasse.

Still, just hours later, defense hawks like Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Rep. Rob WittmanRob WittmanHouse GOP defense policy bill conferees named GOP questions Obama's Afghanistan troop withdrawal Supreme Court to review Virginia state voting districts MORE (R-Va.) said they believed that they could get on board with a plan to allow the budget to pass the committee as is, and then shore up the defense funding at the Rules panel.

"I think that we’re headed towards a path where we’re going to get where I can support the budget,” Thornberry told reporters.

According to Wittman, the final product of the budget is likely to have $96 billion in extra defense spending, with $20.5 billion no longer needing offsets.

Defense and fiscal hawks had been sparring over just a tiny portion of the GOP budget, which has roughly $613 billion in total defense spending and a roughly $3.8 trillion budget in all.  

“Finding an additional $20 billion of waste should not be a serious problem,” said Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), a Budget member who opposed getting rid of offsets.

— Scott Wong contributed to this report, which was updated at 12:04 p.m.