Debate rages in GOP over $203 billion in cuts 

Debate rages in GOP over $203 billion in cuts 
© Greg Nash

The House Budget Committee’s $1.1 trillion budget resolution faces an uncertain future as infighting rages in the GOP over $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts.

The committee is expected to pass the budget resolution Wednesday after what is set to be an all-day mark up in which Democrats plan to offer 28 amendments. 

But Republicans still lack the votes to pass the resolution on the House floor, making the next steps uncertain.

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“There are not the votes to pass it,” said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. “I haven’t read it all but, I mean, I’ve been following it pretty closely, and I didn’t see any epiphany there that would say, ‘Oh, my goodness, now everybody will jump on board.’ ” 

Without a budget resolution, Republicans will not be able to unlock the filibuster-circumventing procedure they plan to use for tax reform.  

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane BlackDiane Lynn BlackLamar Alexander's exit marks end of an era in evolving Tennessee Juan Williams: The GOP's worsening problem with women How to reform the federal electric vehicle tax credit MORE (R-Tenn.) said she still plans on “working all of the members and making sure that they understand the significance and importance of what we put in this document” in order to reach consensus.

For weeks, members of the Freedom Caucus have pushed for higher mandatory spending cuts to offset discretionary spending in the resolution. They managed to secure $53 billion worth of reductions, but the caucus wants roughly double that amount, with the money coming largely from Medicaid, nutrition assistance, education and welfare programs.

Some of those savings would be achieved by adding work requirements for welfare support programs and Medicaid.

“The last eight years have seen slower than expected economic growth, stagnant wages, and millions choosing not even to look for a job,” said Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee.

But centrist Republicans, such as those in the moderate Tuesday Group, say the mandatory cuts are already too deep to be pushed through as part of the reconciliation process. They say the budget resolution ignores political realities. 

Any spending package will need Democratic support in the Senate, the moderates note, as will any attempts to lift the budget caps to allow vast increases in defense spending. 

With only a few legislative weeks left before the end of the 2017 fiscal year, they say Republicans should be negotiating with Democrats now instead of negotiating a last-minute deal that will inevitably yield different spending levels.

“We are writing the appropriations bill with numbers that are not real,” said Tuesday Group co-Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), citing the budget’s $511 billion allocation for nondefense discretionary spending and $621.5 billion allocation for defense. 

“Everyone knows that there will be a bipartisan, bicameral budget agreement at some point, and that 511 number will come up, the 621 number on defense will come down, those will be the real numbers, and the real omnibus will be later this year,” he added, referring to a Republican plan to combine all 12 appropriations bills into one “omnibus” package to speed the process along. 

Members of the GOP conference remain undecided on whether they want to proceed with that plan, with many concerned that they will not have the time to properly consider the complex spending bills.  

A further complication for the budget is the fact that efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as ObamaCare, collapsed in the Senate this week. The House Budget Committee assumes passage of the chamber’s repeal bill, which would have created $119 billion in deficit reductions over a decade.

House Republicans have no plans to alter the healthcare assumptions of the budget plan, saying they will wait for the Senate to do its job on the proposal. 

“I’m not going to give up. I never give up,” Black said. 

Meanwhile, Democrats and left-leaning groups piled onto the budget plan, portraying the cuts as cruel.

“House Republicans have devised a toxic budget whose sole purpose is to hand tax breaks to billionaires on the backs of seniors and hard-working Americans,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.).

Budget Committee ranking member John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthTrump: Top Dems aren't allowing negotiators to make border security deal Dem rep: 'If Mick Mulvaney were president, we could’ve solved' border talks at Camp David retreat Bipartisan House group heads to Camp David retreat MORE (D-Ky.) said that Black had not invited him for any discussions on the budget and predicted that the resolution would fail on the House floor. 

“The problem with the whole exercise is that it is designed to pave the way for a huge tax cut,” he said.  

Democrats plan on releasing their own budget proposal when the GOP’s budget resolution goes to the floor. Their plan would reduce annual deficits but leave the overall debt burden stable at 77 percent of gross domestic product over a decade.