GOP looking for budget deal over recess

Republicans on the House and Senate Budget committees will be spending the two-week congressional recess trying to work toward a joint conference agreement on their spending blueprints, according to GOP aides to the panels.

They have little time to spare with the April 15 deadline just over two weeks away.

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House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMike EnziJudd Gregg: The silver lining Judd Gregg: A little change Lobbying World MORE (R-Wyo.) are hoping to strike the agreement by that deadline, aides said, which will be just two days after Congress returns to Washington next month.

“We aim to finish by the deadline,” one aide said.

Aides said Monday their staffs are meeting regularly and both chairmen will be “in close contact” over the next two weeks.

If they do reach a deal, the final version of the budget would have to pass in both chambers.

The 1974 law that largely established the modern-day budget process set a legal deadline of April 15 for Congress to adopt a conference agreement. 

The deadline is considered flexible. If lawmakers miss the deadline, any final agreement could still be effective once it’s completed.

Congress has missed the deadline numerous times, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Between 1974 and 2003, for example, Congress only struck an agreement by the mid-April deadline six times.

The conference stage is a crucial next step for the GOP after overcoming its first hurdle last week when each chamber successfully passed a GOP budget.

Senate Republicans narrowly adopted their blueprint in a 52-46 vote early Friday morning after a marathon session of voting on amendments. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), both eyeing White House bids next year, were the only two Republicans who opposed it.

House Republicans adopted their budget in a 228-199 vote on Wednesday evening.

Both budgets stick to spending ceilings imposed by a 2011 law.

The Pentagon would be limited to $523 billion in its base budget and nondefense domestic programs would be limited to $493 billion. The only way to raise those caps is if Congress passes a new law that makes that change.

To circumvent the budget cap for defense next year, both budgets propose raising the Pentagon’s war fund to $96 billion, well above President Obama’s $58 billion request.

Critical components of their budgets, however, are very different. The House budget would cut $5.5 trillion and balance in nine years. The Senate budget would cut $5.1 trillion and balance in a decade.

Price’s plan in the House would partially privatize Medicare by transitioning it to a premium support model. Enzi’s plan honors Obama’s request to find just over $400 million in Medicare savings.

The House budget issues reconciliation instructions to 13 different authorizing committees, while the Senate budget only issues them to two — the Finance, and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committees. The rare budget procedure isn’t subject to a filibuster in the Senate and could be used to target ObamaCare, pass tax reform or raise the debt ceiling.

The last time a Republican-controlled Congress adopted a joint conference agreement on the budget was in 2005.