GOP struggles to find budget answer

GOP struggles to find budget answer
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House Republicans appear no closer to coalescing around a budget plan after a closed-door meeting on Thursday, in which GOP leaders pitched another tactic to trim spending.  

In a 90-minute meeting on Thursday, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price gave a PowerPoint presentation describing plans to keep spending levels set by last fall’s deal with the White House, while promising to offset the extra $30 billion in spending in a legislative "sidecar."

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But the Georgia Republican did not offer details how the House GOP would achieve those savings in a way that would appease both fiscal hawks and defense hawks fighting over the $1.07 trillion spending levels, several members said. Fiscal hawks want to cut spending further, while defense hawks oppose more cuts. 

The latest meeting, with its lack of specifics, raises doubts about the party’s prospects of passing a fiscal blueprint this year. And that would raise the odds that Congress again would have to pass some kind of omnibus spending bill to keep the government running past September.

"The level of specificity that we need to make a decision about how to proceed, we don’t have that information,” Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresMark Kelly personally lobbied Rep. Steve Scalise on guns NRA gives ground on bump stocks Momentum builds for bump stock ban MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.

"We’ve got to get something to an actionable state. We’re going to need a [plan that says]: ‘Action X will reduce the deficit by Y,’ he said.

Many members said they were holding out hope that the party can find ways to reduce the deficit and pass a budget, which would allow Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanGOP rep: Virginia defeat 'a referendum' on Trump administration After Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem Pence: Praying 'takes nothing away' from trying to figure out causes behind mass shooting MORE (R-Wis.) to meet his goal of "regular order" in the appropriations process.

Ryan reiterated on Thursday that the House GOP remains "on track and on schedule" to pass a budget before April 15.  
 
"I fundamentally believe that we need to pass a budget and that we need to have a full-functioning appropriations process,” Ryan said, while adding, "Ultimately, this is going to be a decision made by our team."
 
House leadership plans to whip votes on the various budget approaches Thursday morning, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Col.) said.
 
One of the new tactics discussed during the closed-door meeting on Thursday involved changes to the House’s rules to restrict spending.

Lawmakers discussed four rules, including one that would prevent any bill from increasing mandatory spending. Another would prevent the House from approving spending for any unauthorized program or agency.

“Those are two or three ideas that would get a lot of people comfortable with the direction that [Price] is trying to go,” Flores said in an interview.

Another approach is for Ryan to formally task House committees to write bills that find savings to be used to offset the budget, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). It would be similar to the budget reconciliation approach used by the House last year.

“It's suggesting to the appropriate authorizing committee to find savings,” Rogers said. “I think that's the right way to go."

The presentation by Price, followed by House Rules Committee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), did not seem to smooth over tensions between the party’s defense and fiscal hawks.

“We're still discussing the way ahead to make sure the agreement we reached last December is still the agreement,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who supports the higher spending. “[But] there are some people who don't agree with the agreement.”

The two flanks within the GOP have been deeply divided on the budget for weeks, prompting the Budget Committee to postpone its process by two weeks. The committee now hopes to hold a markup on the budget in mid-March, with no timeline yet for bringing a vote to the House floor.

“Anything that doesn't do anything about mandatory spending today is going to be very hard," Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters after leaving the meeting on Thursday.