House Republicans appear no closer to coalescing around a budget plan after a closed-door meeting on Thursday, in which GOP leaders pitched another tactic to trim spending.
In a 90-minute meeting on Thursday, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price gave a PowerPoint presentation describing plans to keep spending levels set by last fall’s deal with the White House, while promising to offset the extra $30 billion in spending in a legislative "sidecar."
But the Georgia Republican did not offer details how the House GOP would achieve those savings in a way that would appease both fiscal hawks and defense hawks fighting over the $1.07 trillion spending levels, several members said. Fiscal hawks want to cut spending further, while defense hawks oppose more cuts.
The latest meeting, with its lack of specifics, raises doubts about the party’s prospects of passing a fiscal blueprint this year. And that would raise the odds that Congress again would have to pass some kind of omnibus spending bill to keep the government running past September.
"The level of specificity that we need to make a decision about how to proceed, we don’t have that information,” Rep. Bill FloresWilliam (Bill) Hose FloresThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Calls mount to start transition as Biden readies Cabinet picks Hillicon Valley: House votes to condemn QAnon | Americans worried about foreign election interference | DHS confirms request to tap protester phones House approves measure condemning QAnon, but 17 Republicans vote against it MORE (R-Texas), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, told The Hill.
"We’ve got to get something to an actionable state. We’re going to need a [plan that says]: ‘Action X will reduce the deficit by Y,’ he said.
Many members said they were holding out hope that the party can find ways to reduce the deficit and pass a budget, which would allow Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanFormer Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 No time for the timid: The dual threats of progressives and Trump Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power MORE (R-Wis.) to meet his goal of "regular order" in the appropriations process.
Lawmakers discussed four rules, including one that would prevent any bill from increasing mandatory spending. Another would prevent the House from approving spending for any unauthorized program or agency.
“Those are two or three ideas that would get a lot of people comfortable with the direction that [Price] is trying to go,” Flores said in an interview.
Another approach is for Ryan to formally task House committees to write bills that find savings to be used to offset the budget, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). It would be similar to the budget reconciliation approach used by the House last year.
“It's suggesting to the appropriate authorizing committee to find savings,” Rogers said. “I think that's the right way to go."
The presentation by Price, followed by House Rules Committee Chairman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), did not seem to smooth over tensions between the party’s defense and fiscal hawks.
“We're still discussing the way ahead to make sure the agreement we reached last December is still the agreement,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee who supports the higher spending. “[But] there are some people who don't agree with the agreement.”
The two flanks within the GOP have been deeply divided on the budget for weeks, prompting the Budget Committee to postpone its process by two weeks. The committee now hopes to hold a markup on the budget in mid-March, with no timeline yet for bringing a vote to the House floor.
“Anything that doesn't do anything about mandatory spending today is going to be very hard," Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters after leaving the meeting on Thursday.