Dems wonder: Can GOP even pass a budget?

The top Democrat on the House Budget Committee is wondering if Republicans can unite to pass a budget this year.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former Budget chairman, has said that GOP leaders are poised to “hit our benchmarks” on government funding, with President Trump’s budget proposal, released Thursday, as the first step of that process. 

But Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the ranking member of the panel, said long-standing divisions within the Republican Party — particularly on government spending issues — raise real questions about whether Ryan can rally his troops behind a resolution. 

Yarmuth said he has not spoken with Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), the Budget chairwoman, about the issue. But he sees an increasing likelihood that the Republicans will have to fall back on current levels to dictate the spending debate this year.

That would be an embarrassing setback for Ryan and the Republicans, who want to prove their ability to govern effectively under their first united government in over a decade. 

{mosads}“They’re going to have a hard time getting a budget done. And I have no idea where she is,” Yarmuth said, referring to Black. “[But] they may basically do a continuation budget with reconciliation instructions and not even have a markup. 

“I think that’s a distinct possibility.” 

Complicating the equation for Ryan and the Republicans, Trump on Thursday released a 2018 budget blueprint that proposes steep cuts to domestic programs — including many championed by Capitol Hill Republicans — but lays off Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs that have long been on the chopping block under the GOP budgets championed by both Ryan and former Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who’s now Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services.

Yarmuth said the tensions between Trump and congressional Republicans on spending issues will make it only that much tougher for Ryan to thread the needle and pass a budget this year.

“That would be a reflection of a disagreement between the Republicans in Congress and the White House,” he said.

The comments came as Yarmuth and other rural-state Democrats are sounding off against Trump’s budget outline, warning that the cuts the White House has proposed would devastate agricultural  regions disproportionately. Ironically, they note, those are the same regions where voters flocked to Trump’s promise of reviving jobs.

“Donald Trump spoke to the people that I represent when he talked about, ’I’m going to bring your jobs home,’” Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) told reporters in the Capitol Friday. 

“[But] the promises that Donald Trump made on the campaign trail are very different from what President Trump is delivering now. And we saw that with his budget.” 

Rep. Collin Peterson, senior Democrat on the Agriculture Committee who represents a rural Minnesota district, was particularly critical of Trump’s budget proposal to cut the Agriculture Department by 21 percent. He said those cuts would devastate farms and lead to a spike in the price of food that would hurt every consumer in the country. 

“I don’t know that the administration so much wanted to go after certain things as that they just didn’t understand what they were doing,” he said.

Peterson said he’s talking to Republicans on the Agriculture Committee, who support almost none of the cuts to the department Trump has proposed. 

“They mostly are just kind of ignoring this, and they’re just trying to run away from it in other cases,” Peterson sai

Indeed, even many Republicans are publicly distancing themselves from Trump’s proposal. Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the former Appropriations Committee chairman, characterized the White House cuts as “draconian, careless and counterproductive.”

Ryan, for his part, has largely steered clear of the debate over Trump’s cuts. The Speaker has hailed the increased military spending in Trump’s proposal, but has so far declined to weigh in on the cuts to domestic programs and Trump’s decision to leave the entitlements intact.

“This is a long, ongoing process,” he said Thursday. “This is the very beginning.”

Tags Cheri Bustos Diane Black Donald Trump John Yarmuth Paul Ryan

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