GOP blocks Reid from creating conference committee on budget

Senate Republicans on Tuesday prevented Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) from setting up a budget conference.

Reid sought the Senate’s unanimous consent to form a budget conference committee aimed at reconciling the wildly different House and Senate budget resolutions, but Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) objected.

{mosads}Toomey said he was objecting on behalf of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee who had a conflict and could not be present.

“It seems House Republicans don’t want to be seen even discussing the possibility of compromise with the Democrats for fear of a Tea Party revolt,” Reid said.

He noted that Republicans have called for “regular order” for years.

“A strange thing happened: House Republicans did a complete 180 — they flipped. They’re no longer interested in regular order even though they preached that for years,” Reid said. 

Sessions said lawmakers need to reach some kind of an agreement about how the conference will work.

“There are difficulties in the fact that we haven’t been able to have any understanding on how this conference might work and what prospects we have for success might be. I think it’s possible that we could succeed, but at this point we are not close enough to anticipate a successful conference and that presents complications for the House,” Sessions said when pressed by a reporter in a hallway interview.

A Republican aide said there was no reason to create a conference because President Obama won’t drop his demand for tax increases. 

“There’s no expectation, at all, of a successful conference. The
president already said that his budget was his final offer — and it’s a
trillion dollars in taxes off,” a Senate GOP aide explained.

The Senate passed its first budget resolution in four years last month. Republicans had criticized Reid and Senate Democrats for their inaction on budgets, calling it irresponsible.

Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have been meeting about setting up a conference, but Democrats say the House GOP is dragging its feet.

Ryan wants a “framework” in place first, which he argues could help avoid an embarrassing public deadlock. Such a framework would steer the committee toward a down payment on reducing the deficit, Ryan argues.

Reid said last week that no backroom agreement is necessary to proceed with regular order. 

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said there should at least be an agreement between Ryan and Murray before a conference is launched.

“To go to conference before you have any sense of whether there is any chance of getting an outcome strikes us as not making much sense,” he said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said that it is customary to make such arrangements before staring a conference and pointed out that under House rules, if the committee were to fail to resolve differences after 20 days, any member could gum up the House floor with motions to instruct conferees.

“It is ‘regular order’ for the budget chairs to agree to a framework before conferees are named, and Chairman Ryan and Sen. Murray are having those conversations. It is difficult to see what Sen. Reid’s stunt today will do to help if Senate Democrats don’t even agree we need to balance the budget in the first place,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said Tuesday.

Democrats say Boehner is trying to avoid public conference meetings, which they say would highlight the House GOP’s unwillingness to agree to higher taxes on the wealthy.

The House-passed budget cuts $4.6 trillion in spending on top of the $1.2 trillion sequestration cuts already scheduled to take effect, and it balances in 10 years.

The Senate-passed budget has $975 billion in new taxes, does not balance, and does not cut spending when the fact it turns off sequestration is taken into effect.

This story was first posted at 8:56 a.m. and has been updated.
Tags Boehner Harry Reid Jeff Sessions John Boehner Mitch McConnell Patty Murray Paul Ryan

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