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House leaders appoint budget negotiators

Leaders in the House on Tuesday appointed the members of a budget conference committee that will be tasked with crafting a final spending blueprint for fiscal 2016.

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' MORE (R-Ohio) appointed Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.), Vice Chairman Todd Rokita (Ind.) and committee members Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackBottom line Overnight Health Care: Anti-abortion Democrats take heat from party | More states sue Purdue over opioid epidemic | 1 in 4 in poll say high costs led them to skip medical care Lamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee MORE (Tenn.) and John Moolenaar (Mich.) to the panel.

The three Democratic conferees are Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), the Budget panel's ranking member, and Reps. Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MooreMcMorris Rodgers floats vacating Speaker's chair over Democrat's in-person vote after COVID diagnosis House approves rules package for new Congress Top House Appropriations Republican tests COVID-19 positive MORE (Wis.) and John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthDem lawmaker says GOP Rep. Boebert gave 'large' group tour days ahead of Capitol attack Trump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency Sanders to wield gavel as gatekeeper for key Biden proposals MORE (Ky.).

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Senate leaders are expected to name conferees by the end of week or early next week, Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntUS Chamber of Commerce to stop supporting some lawmakers following the Capitol riots Senate to be briefed on inauguration security after Capitol attack This week: Democrats barrel toward Trump impeachment after Capitol attack MORE (R-Mo.), vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, told The Hill.

While Republicans are expected to miss the legal deadline of Wednesday to adopt an agreement on the GOP budgets, some are confident a deal will be reached by the end of April.

Republicans are adamant about getting a deal so that it triggers the budget procedure known as reconciliation, said Price, who downplayed any major issues.

“I wouldn’t call them speed bumps,” Price said. “We’re working through all of the issues and areas of concern and I’m very confident we’ll wind up with a unified product at the end.”

Price met with his Senate counterpart, Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziSenate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes With Senate at stake, Georgia is on all our minds Wyoming mask mandate backed by GOP lawmakers goes into effect MORE (R-Wyo.), last Thursday to get a head-start on negotiations while Congress finished up its two-week recess.

“I think there’s a narrowing of the differences,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the Budget Committee, told The Hill. “We’re not very far apart. I think the big difference is that we’re a lot more specific than they are, but that’s a natural difference between the House budget document and a Senate budget document.”

The Republican conferees from the House span several different committees: Rokita sits on the Education and Workforce and Transportation and Infrastructure Committees. Black sits on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. Moolenaar is a freshman who also serves on the Agriculture and Science, Space and Technology Committees.

Diaz-Balart is a member of the House GOP whip team, which could help them determine during negotiations whether any provision could cost too many votes. He also serves on the Appropriations Committee.

Cole also sits on the House Appropriations Committee and explained that the only numbers that really matter in the budget are the spending guidelines for appropriations subcommittees.

Negotiators don’t necessarily have to focus on the policy changes at the conference agreement stage, but must make sure all topline numbers match. Authorizing committees could determine approaches to policy later this year.

House Republicans, Cole suggested, might lobby more for parts of their budget in the final document.

“At the end of the day, I would expect us to be braver and lean a little more forward than our friends in the Senate,” he said. “Our position in the House is more secure than theirs and we’ve been doing this for a while. It’s the first time they’ve come up with a budget on their own in eight years. We wrote alternatives even when we were in the minority and they don’t.”

The last time a GOP-controlled Congress adopted a budget conference agreement was 10 years ago, and Medicaid held up that final compromise.

Medicaid is one of several issues that could lead to an impasse again. Both GOP budgets propose converting Medicaid to a state block grant model. Over the next decade, however, the Senate would cut the program by $400 billion, while the House would cut it by more than $900 billion.

For Medicare, their policies and topline budget numbers are different. The House would partially privatize the program by transitioning it to a premium support model and cutting it by nearly $150 billion over 10 years. The Senate didn’t propose a major change to Medicare and would seek about $430 billion in savings that President Obama requested.

The reconciliation instructions are also dramatically different. The House budget issues instructions to 13 committees while the Senate’s would issue them only to two — Finance and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCan the GOP break its addiction to show biz? House conservatives plot to oust Liz Cheney Ex-Speaker Boehner after Capitol violence: 'The GOP must awaken' MORE emphasized Tuesday that Republicans want to ensure flexibility in the reconciliation process, suggesting they’ll push for instructions to additional Senate panels.

Negotiators could also hit snags over defense spending, which caused problems between deficit hawks and defense hawks last month, as well as cuts to domestic programs.

“Everything in a negotiation can slow a negotiation down, but I think that the budgets are close enough that we should be able to come to an agreed-to budget and hopefully do that pretty quickly,” Blunt said, adding that the budgets are “different,” but not “dramatically different.”

GOP leaders in the House have already scheduled floor votes on two appropriations bills before they leave Washington for their next recess in early May.

Those floor votes can’t happen before May 15 unless the GOP reaches an agreement on the budget before then.

“It’s not certain at this point,” Price said, “But I think the goal is to do it prior to the end of the month.”