House will vote on two versions of budget

House Republicans have decided to pursue the risky strategy of holding two separate floor votes on the GOP budget blueprint Wednesday in order to resolve a disagreement over defense spending and go to conference with the Senate.

The GOP-led House Rules Committee advanced Rep. Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) blueprint Monday evening in a 6-3 vote with two amendments Price filed that allow the separate floor votes.

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One of the amendments allows a vote on the budget in its current form, which includes a provision that would boost the Pentagon’s war fund next year to $94 billion, while requiring $20 billion in offsets. Defense hawks rallied against this provision last week.

The other amendment allows another floor vote on the budget with a new proposal to boost the war fund to $96 billion and require no offsets.

GOP leaders have not yet determined which vote will come first on the floor.

The budget that receives the most number of affirmative votes will be considered the final adopted version. If there is a tie, then only the last budget that’s passed will be considered the final adopted version.

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) told reporters Monday evening GOP leaders are trying to satisfy members of their entire conference.

“What we’re trying to do is give everybody a chance,” he said, adding, “I don’t know the winner.”

House GOP Policy Committee Chairman Luke Messer (R-Ind.) confirmed the plan Monday afternoon after exiting the weekly leadership meeting.

"I believe by the end of the week we will have a budget that gets to 218. I'm not smart enough to predict which one it will be," Messer said.

Given the outcry over the current version from defense hawks last week, the amended budget with $96 billion and no offsets could be the winner.

Either way, it could be tough for Republicans. Last year’s GOP budget from Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump, Clinton intelligence briefings likely to start next week Clinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform MORE (R-Wis.) narrowly passed the House in a 219-205 vote.

The new strategy deviates from one GOP leaders suggested last week, in which they said the Rules Committee Monday evening would use a parliamentary maneuver to amend Price’s spending blueprint to remove the need to offset $20 billion for the war fund.

But two top members of the conservative Republican Study Committee (RSC) said Monday afternoon they’d prefer that the full House get a chance to vote on the GOP budget, both with and without offsets for the defense spending.

“Conceptually speaking, most conservative members like for the House to be able to work its will,” Rep. Bill FloresBill FloresMoulitsas: Stuck with Trump Top conservative calls for 'less trash talk' from Trump GOP fears next Trump blowup MORE (Texas), the RSC chairman, told reporters on Monday, adding that "it really doesn’t work its will transparently and efficiently" when policy changes are made in the Rules Committee.

“So I think most of us would have a problem with that," Flores said.   

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.), a Budget Committee member who has bucked leadership in the past, added: “We’d rather have those votes on the floor.”

“I think our leadership is giving our membership to have as much of a regular order process as possible,” Stutzman added. “They’re opening this up as much as possible.”

Either way, both Flores and Stutzman, who rolled out the RSC’s budget on Monday, predicted that the House would find a way to pass a budget this week. Both lawmakers also said they would back the RSC budget, the framework the Budget Committee passed last week, and the proposal that defense hawks have sought to roll back offsets.  

“I think that all of them are good budgets, and I think that they all address the defense issues. They all address the fiscal challenges that we have,” Flores said. 

“And the most important thing to remember is they all get us to reconciliation. And reconciliation is just too important a tool to be voting no on a budget.”