Conservatives drop demands for bigger spending cuts to get to tax reform

Greg Nash

Conservatives are dropping their demands for billions in mandatory spending cuts as GOP House leaders ready to take up the Senate-passed budget next week, a key step for tax reform.

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who had pushed for the Senate to adopt $203 billion in mandatory cuts included in the House budget, is now supporting the Senate plan.

“The budget process is not easy, but I am pleased that the final version included some changes that reflect many ideas offered in our plan and also has the support of President Trump,” Black said in a prepared statement. “In the House, I look forward to swift passage and to working with the president on tax reform, to provide relief to all Americans.”

{mosads}Conservatives that had pushed for the inclusion of mandatory spending cuts in the House budget are now focusing on swiftly passing tax reform.

“I will vote for the Senate budget and while I applaud the work that Chairman Black did in our budget committee to begin the process of mandatory spending reforms, at this point, achieving economic growth is the first priority and so I want to keep that train moving,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Republicans in general are under heavy pressure to get a legislative win on tax reform after failing to pass other priorities, including ObamaCare repeal. The failures have added up despite a year of unified GOP control of the government.

The new urgency to get tax reform done is reflected in the decision of conservatives to back the Senate budget.

Earlier this year, House Freedom Caucus members had been willing to delay committee passage of the House budget on demands that it include instructions to cut more mandatory spending. Now they are signaling acquiescence to the smaller Senate figures.

On a Friday afternoon phone call, the House Freedom Caucus opted not to formally vote on the issue, but many members expressed support for moving forward with the Senate bill to keep momentum going.

According to Brat, they were willing to drop the spending cuts if leadership would publicly set a Thanksgiving deadline for passing the tax plan.

“We don’t want it dragging on forever, like health care did. That’s when the swamp gets involved, and that’s not good for the middle class,” Brat said.

Passing the budget is linked to tax reform because it includes special instructions that will allow the tax bill to be shielded from a Senate filibuster, preventing Democrats from blocking it. Without passage of a new GOP budget, the rules would not be in play and Democrats would have more leverage.

Many House conservatives have been unusually quiet following the Senate resolution’s passage. Rep. Mark Walker (N.C.), the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee, did not respond to multiple inquiries from The Hill, nor did several vocal members of the Freedom Caucus.

A spokesperson for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said a final decision had yet to be made on whether to advance the Senate bill in the House next week.

Heritage Action, a conservative group, is also on board with the plan of taking up the Senate bill.

“Heritage Action is supportive of the Senate-passed budget because it moves us towards tax reform. On a parallel track, Republicans need to begin seriously tackling America’s long-term spending challenges,” Heritage Vice President Dan Holler said.

Twenty-two conservative economic organizations under the banner of the National Taxpayers Union sent a letter to House members urging that they adopt the Senate budget.

“The budget process serves many important purposes, but this year’s iteration offers a unique opportunity to pass fundamental tax reform — far and away our nation’s highest fiscal priority,” it said.

“The quickest and highest-probability path to achieving this goal would be to bypass the conference process and move directly to a House vote on the Senate-passed budget resolution,” said the letter, which was signed by groups such as Club for Growth, Americans for Tax Reform and Freedomworks.

Tags Diane Black House Freedom Caucus Paul Ryan Tax reform
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