House GOP chairman rules out key part of budget plan

House GOP chairman rules out key part of budget plan
© Greg Nash

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee is throwing cold water on the latest attempt to unite House Republicans around the party’s 2017 budget blueprint.  

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said Tuesday he opposes a key part of the legislative strategy put forward by his budget committee counterpart, Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), to advance a fiscal blueprint next year.

Price announced Monday his budget plan would meet the terms set by last fall’s deal with the White House, while promising votes sometime this year on separate legislation to reduce the federal deficit.

While he said the House would have “multiple options” to vote on those mandatory savings, it would likely need to take the form of appropriations bills – something that Rogers said would be nearly impossible for his committee to do.

“While the Chairman is a long-time, strong supporter of mandatory and entitlement reforms to reduce the deficit, the Appropriations process is not the best way to enact them,” committee spokeswoman Jennifer Hing wrote in an email Tuesday.

It’s a new wrinkle in the House GOP's struggle to craft a budget plan that will win the necessary support from the Freedom Caucus, which has several members on the Budget committee and is becoming increasingly vocal.

It’s also the first budgeting season under Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanRepublicans are avoiding gun talks as election looms The Hill's 12:30 Report Flake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan MORE, a former budget committee chairman who has made it a personal priority to “restore regular order.”

With new opposition from the House Appropriations Committee, the GOP's chances of approving a joint budget blueprint are again shrinking.

Rogers warned that Price’s approach would cause a massive disruption of “regular order” by requiring the House to “circumnavigate its own budget process rules.” 

He argues that Congress’s 12 yearly appropriations bills – which deal with discretionary spending – are not meant to include cuts to mandatory spending.  Instead, he pointed to Congress’s authorization committees – typically the standing committees in both the House and Senate – which are responsible for crafting major changes to federal programs under their jurisdiction.

The better approach to tackling mandatory spending cuts, Rogers argues, is through a budget tactic known as reconciliation.

But that would require both chambers of Congress to agree and vote on a joint budget blueprint.

Those votes that could be politically dangerous to Senate Republicans, however. The GOP is defending 24 Senate seats, while Democrats are protecting only 10.