House GOP reignites push for budget plan

House GOP reignites push for budget plan
© Haiyun Jiang

House Republicans on Friday morning appeared no closer to a deal as they emerged from a 90-minute closed-door meeting on the budget.

The House's budget struggles consumed the entire agenda of a members-only meeting also intended to discuss a response to the Zika virus and Puerto Rico’s looming default.


GOP leaders are reigniting conversations on the stalled budget plan with little time left to take a vote before moving on to appropriations bills. The House can begin voting on spending bills every year after May 15, even without an official budget, though some members are concerned it would appear to violate the "regular order" promised by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.).

Ryan is now aiming to bring up the bill the week of May 10, after next week's recess, according to several lawmakers and aides.

“I think there’s hope,” said Rep. Trent FranksHarold (Trent) Trent FranksArizona New Members 2019 Cook shifts 8 House races toward Dems Freedom Caucus members see openings in leadership MORE (R-Ariz.), a member of the House Budget Committee and the House Freedom Caucus, which officially opposes the budget. Franks said Friday he would support "several" of the approaches currently under consideration.

That optimism was shared by more than a half-dozen members Friday — including Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) who, like Franks, voted against the omnibus spending bill last year but now says he will vote yes for the budget.

“I think we’re moving toward a way that we can get a budget done, that we can get 218 votes for,” Roe said.

Still, no Republican members could point to any new strategies to pass the bill, or any new areas of agreement.

“We’re getting closer. We’re not there yet,” said Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), a member of the Budget Committee who supports bringing it to the floor. Asked whether he and his committee are helping to change minds on the issue, he said, walking into an elevator: “I think we are evolving into a place where we are going to hopefully find something good.”

The House has just four working days until the May 15 deadline, when the chamber can begin considering appropriations bills on the floor without approving a budget resolution.

GOP leaders, including Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.), have for months failed to break a bitter standoff with fiscal hawks who have balked at the $1.07 trillion spending levels in the bill.

That top-line figure — about $30 billion higher than last year — was cemented into law last fall as part of a deal between President Obama and former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (R-Ohio).

Ryan has been working with several GOP chairmen and the Budget Committee to find a compromise after missing the last deadline on April 15.

Fiscal hawks, led by the House Freedom Caucus, have been pushing a massive bill to slash at least $30 billion in two years. That sidecar bill is the work of three committees: Energy and Commerce, Ways and Means and Financial Services. All three have already passed their savings packages.

 Price told reporters Friday the sidecar legislation is “ready to go,” but wouldn’t say how it could go to the House floor.

Many members of the House Freedom Caucus have said for weeks that they would support a vote on the budget if leadership agrees to advance the sidecar package. Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the Budget Committee and the Freedom Caucus, said he has personally asked leadership repeatedly to bring up a vote on that bill.

But the budget has caused disputes even within the House Freedom Caucus: Rep. John FlemingJohn Calvin FlemingThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Dems aim to end anti-Semitism controversy with vote today Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles Overnight Energy: Watchdog opens investigation into Interior chief | Judge halts Pruitt truck pollution rule decision | Winners, losers in EPA, Interior spending bill amendments MORE (R-La.) said the sidecar package is not a solution because it’s "just political theatre, it’s window dressing.”

“I think it’s designed with the expectation that the Senate will remove it. It gives political cover for conservatives to vote for the budget with those savings knowing ahead of time, it’s never going to make it into the budget,” Fleming told reporters.

“There are a lot of ideas, but there’s no specific plan out there beyond what’s been discussed,” he added.

Frustration is growing among members on the Appropriations Committee, who say Ryan and GOP leaders are on the verge on defying their promises of “regular order.”

Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), a defense hawk, said the members who oppose the budget know “damn well” that their efforts to lower the spending levels by $30 billion will have a small effect on the overall federal budget.

“If we can’t do the basics, the fundamentals, then how do we do the big issues?” Dent asked. “It looks like as a conference, we’re afraid to do our jobs.”