GOP leaders to hold talks with rank and file amid budget trouble

GOP leaders to hold talks with rank and file amid budget trouble
© Greg Nash

House Republican leaders are stepping up talks with rank-and-file members on the budget as they look to quell growing tensions within the GOP about how much to spend.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) has planned several listening sessions for members this week as the party begins crafting its fiscal blueprint for the upcoming year, according to a GOP leadership aide.

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Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanReport: Ryan pleaded on one knee for ObamaCare repeal vote Republican quits House Freedom Caucus Ted Koppel tells Sean Hannity he is bad for America MORE (R-Wis.), a former Budget Committee chairman, plans to attend some of the meetings. The budget will also be the main topic of discussion at a conference meeting on Friday.

The outreach by House leaders is an attempt to unite its increasingly disjointed caucus around budget figures negotiated last fall by the White House and then-Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern ObamaCare gets new lease on life Ryan picks party over country by pushing healthcare bill MORE (R-Ohio).

That deal agreed to cap government spending at $1.1 trillion while eliminating across-the-board cuts known as the sequester in the upcoming year. But some fiscal hawks, particularly those in the House Freedom Caucus, say they want to cut as much as $30 billion from that figure.

Any changes to that agreement would force Obama and GOP leaders back to the drawing board. A rewrite would be a major threat to Ryan, who is just four months into his leadership post, and to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Memo: Winners and losers from the battle over healthcare GOP senators pitch alternatives after House pulls ObamaCare repeal bill Under pressure, Dems hold back Gorsuch support MORE (R-Ky.), who has vowed to oversee a smooth budget process this year.

When asked about the budget discord on Wednesday, Ryan twice declined to say whether he would stick to the Obama-BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern ObamaCare gets new lease on life Ryan picks party over country by pushing healthcare bill MORE numbers.

"I'm not going to get into all the details of how the budget comes down,” Ryan told reporters.

One day earlier, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said he plans to stick by the budget caps. But a GOP leadership aide said shortly after Rogers's comments that negotiations were still incomplete. House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) declined to comment on Tuesday.

Ryan and his leadership team met Tuesday night with Price and other members of his committee the same day the White House released its own 182-page fiscal blueprint. Rogers did not attend and has not formally spoken with Ryan this week, an aide said.

Ryan dismissed any trouble with the GOP’s budget plans in his press conference Wednesday.

"This is a familiar conversation. I was chair of the Budget Committee for a number of years. We're having the same kinds of conversations with our colleagues that we have every year. The only difference is we're having it in February instead of April because we want to get ahead of schedule,” he said. “I'm confident that members will sort this thing out."

Neither the White House nor the GOP budget proposal will become law, though both will serve as important political messaging tools ahead of the fall elections.

Approving a joint budget resolution in Congress would also give Republicans the power to pass certain bills without the threat of a filibuster in the Senate and send the legislation to the president’s desk. That tactic, known as budget reconciliation, was used to pass a repeal of ObamaCare last year, which the president vetoed.

Scott Wong contributed.