Paul Ryan's successor maps out agenda

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) has big shoes to fill as chairman of the House Budget Committee in the next Congress.

Taking over from Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Paul Ryan says Biden likely won't get Democratic nomination Judd Gregg: Honey, I Shrunk The Party MORE (R-Wis.), the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential nominee and leading voice on fiscal matters, Price is vowing to rein in federal spending, reform the budget process and potentially roll back ObamaCare.

ADVERTISEMENT

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Price detailed his policy vision for the coming year, which he said includes giving states more power over how federal money is spent.

Here’s a look at five of his priorities for the coming year.

Passing a budget resolution

Price said House Republicans are going to work to pass a budget resolution with the Senate that balances within 10 years.

While the GOP has fought successfully to reduce “discretionary” government spending in the past four years, Price noted the party hasn’t yet reduced “mandatory spending” on entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

“That’s where the vast majority of the challenge is — to try to get our budget to balance and to get the economy growing again. We will continue to push on those reforms on the mandatory side,” Price said.

Price also said he wants to rewrite the 1974 Budget Act that has governed the budget process for decades. He said changing it is “imperative,” and that the Pro-Growth Budgeting Act he’s introduced in the last two Congresses should be approved.

The bill would require the Congressional Budget Office to study the macroeconomic long-term impacts of certain legislation on the economy.

Reconciliation

With the Republicans in the majority next year, many in the GOP believe they can use a budget tool called reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare.

A reconciliation deal cannot be filibustered in the Senate and only needs 51 votes to pass instead of a supermajority.

GOP leaders have not yet decided on how to use reconciliation, Price said, but the decision could be made by mid-January during their joint retreat to Hershey, Pa.

Republicans have two options: use reconciliation to reverse ObamaCare provisions that President Obama would likely veto, or use the tools to pass changes Obama might be more willing to sign.

“I think the conference has to decide, and will decide, whether or not the tools ought to be used for things that we know will provide a contrast with the president, that we know the president will not support,” Price said, “Or things that will get us to do a true change in public policy with his signature.”

Tax reform and energy policy are two other policy areas where reconciliation could be used to enacted legislation, he said.

Relieving sequestration

The budget caps under sequestration return in the next fiscal year, beginning in October, which could lead to automatic spending cuts if appropriators can’t live within those caps.

Like many Republicans, Price said he is concerned about limited defense spending under those caps, but believes simply raising them isn’t the solution.

“Sequester is a blunt instrument and it’s a clumsy tool,” Price said, but added, “We believe that keeping the caps in place are important.”

Instead, the firewall between defense and non-defense spending could be eliminated, he said, creating greater flexibility for increasing the Pentagon’s budget.

Another alternative to relieve sequestration without raising the caps would be to create savings within the 10-year window for mandatory programs, Price added.

The one catch, however, is Obama would have to sign a budget deal that would alter the caps and likely wouldn’t accept an agreement that cuts non-defense discretionary spending.

Debt limit

While the debt ceiling is only suspended through March 15, Congress will have some extra time to figure out how to raise it before the threat of a default.

A showdown over the ceiling could happen next spring or summer, and Price indicated Friday he supports a policy known as the “BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCoronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 Lobbying world Pelosi-Trump relationship takes turn for the terrible MORE Rule” that Republicans proposed in the 2011 debt ceiling debate to demand a dollar of spending cuts for every dollar of a debt increase.

“I think it was wise, we kind of fell away from that,” Price said. “Anything that gets us further in the direction of true reform to save and strengthen your Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security is a wise thing for the country but it also helps us from a debt and deficit standing.”

CBO direction

Doug Elmendorf, the director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), could be forced out by the Republican majority early next year.

Elmendorf’s term expires in January, giving Republicans the decision of whether or not to keep him. Outside conservative groups have been pushing the GOP to replace him, but Price said a decision has not been made.

“We’re in the process of talking about that,” Price said. “I have always said that Doug Elmendorf has done an extremely good job. My concern at CBO is not necessarily the individual to lead the CBO, but my concern are the rules under which they operate.”

The delay in deciding Elmendorf’s fate is partially due to the Senate Budget gavel being up in the air.

Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziLawmakers trade insults over Trump budget cuts Republicans scramble to avoid Medicare land mine McConnell will not bring budget resolution to the floor MORE (R-Wyo.) and Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump looms as flashpoint in Alabama Senate battle Trump tweets test Attorney General Barr The Hill's Morning Report - Sanders on the rise as Nevada debate looms MORE (R-Ala.) have both said they want to be the committee’s chairman, but that contest won’t be resolved until next year.

Price said he has a problem with CBO’s rules over scoring legislation based on a 10-year window and the lack of macroeconomic predictions.

Republicans want CBO to pursue "dynamic scoring" in addition to the "static scoring" the agency does now. 

Dynamic scoring would require CBO to evaluate more broadly how tax cuts would fuel growth in the economy, thus increasing the amount of revenue coming in to the government.