GOP budget heads for crucial vote

Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a joint House-Senate budget that aims to torpedo ObamaCare while balancing the federal books within 10 years.

The release of the blueprint sets up a vote in the House on Friday, with the Senate expected to follow suit next week.

{mosads}That could present a challenge for House GOP leaders, who can afford only 27 defections from their ranks if Democrats, as expected, unanimously oppose it.

House Republicans have repeatedly struggled to pass measures on the backs of their own members, though they lost only 17 on March 25 when the chamber approved its initial budget.

The new 100-page blueprint, however, includes some changes after negotiations with the Senate that could make it tougher to pass. It is also being dropped into a quickly forming race for the GOP presidential nomination. Two candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.), voted against the Senate GOP budget.

Republicans did not hold a press conference to announce their blueprint, depriving reporters of a chance to ask Budget Committee leaders publicly about whether they would have the 218 votes for passage. The House is scheduled to be out on recess next week.

The most significant change in the new blueprint is that it would only give three House committees instructions to use a budget procedure known as reconciliation. Legislation passed under reconciliation rules cannot be filibustered in the Senate, requiring only a majority vote. This would make it easier to send a repeal of the healthcare law to President Obama’s desk.

The initial House budget gave 13 House committees reconciliation instructions, which could have allowed Republicans to pass a host of measures under the rules.

Senate Republicans also balked at House language giving seniors the option of enrolling in private insurance under Medicare. They feared the idea, championed by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), would hurt them ahead of an election cycle in which they are defending 24 seats.

The budget contains no tax hikes and would cut more than $5 trillion in spending over the next decade. It retains a ceiling on spending set up by a separate 2011 budget law that the White House has argued should be ignored, but would boost military spending through an infusion of cash to the Pentagon’s war fund.

House and Senate negotiators reached a final deal after Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) dropped a hold on the agreement. He had criticized “gimmicks” that deal with changes in mandatory spending programs.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), the chairmen of the House and Senate Budget panels, hailed the agreement as a step toward curbing the government’s “out of control spending.”

“Congress is poised to approve a 10-year balanced budget for the first time since 2001, which represents an important step in confronting the nation’s chronic overspending,” Enzi said in a statement.

Democrats assailed the GOP plan as a “bad deal” for the country. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said it would “ransack America’s future.”

Republicans have remained united behind the push to repeal ObamaCare through reconciliation, something that conservatives began to demand after the GOP won control of Congress last year.

The reconciliation language in the budget gives deficit-cutting instructions to the congressional panels with jurisdiction over the healthcare law. They are the Senate Finance Committee and Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

The budget tasks these committees with producing bills that slash the deficit by billions of dollars no later than July 24. After that, Republicans would have to conference the bills from the two chambers.

While legislation repealing 

ObamaCare would be vetoed by the White House, it would allow the Republican Congress to move a step closer to its goal of doing away with the law.

The budget also imposes a point of order against a reconciliation bill or resolution that would raise the debt limit over the next decade. That provision can only be waived if two-thirds of the Senate approves it.

Congress will likely have to raise the debt ceiling this fall.

For fiscal 2016, which will start on Oct. 1, Republicans propose sticking to the $1.017 trillion discretionary budget cap that was set in 2011. The sequestration ceiling limits the Pentagon to $523 billion in spending next year, while capping non-defense domestic programs at $493 billion.

To circumvent the Pentagon’s cap, Republicans included a provision that hikes a war fund to about $96 billion.

Republicans propose cutting $496 billion in discretionary funding over the next 10 years for domestic programs, and $4.2 trillion in mandatory spending over the same time frame.

The deal would limit appropriators to using $19 billion for spending changes to mandatory programs for fiscal 2016 and 2017, which is the same level in the original resolution. Those levels would decrease after that, in an effort to phase them out.

Corker has wanted to completely eliminate the mandatory program adjustments, which appropriators rely on to offset nondefense discretionary spending increases while remaining under the budget cap.

“By working together we have provided a vision for how we can advance solutions to create more opportunity for Americans and a healthier economy, more accountability in Washington and a stronger, safer and more secure nation,” Price said.

Tags Bob Corker Budget Mike Enzi ObamaCare Tom Price
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