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Chances of passing Dem budget are '50-50,' says chairman

Chances of passing Dem budget are '50-50,' says chairman

Democrats have only a “50-50” chance of putting a budget resolution on the House floor, House Budget Committee Chairman John YarmuthJohn Allen YarmuthPelosi, Democrats unveil bills to rein in alleged White House abuses of power GOP, White House struggle to unite behind COVID-19 relief House seeks ways to honor John Lewis MORE (D-Ky.) said Tuesday, amid Democratic infighting over policy priorities.

"Probably 50-50,” he responded when questioned as he headed to a meeting with the moderate New Democrats faction to discuss the budget.

His comment marks a sharp turnaround from Monday afternoon, when Yarmuth told reporters that he was meeting with the various factions within the caucus as he drafts Democrats’ alternative budget, and suggested all parties were uniting behind his evolving plan.

"So far we haven't run into any huge ideological obstacles to putting together a reasonable budget resolution,” he said at the time.

Failure to pass a nonbinding budget resolution, which is typically seen as a political document, could indicate the extent to which the Democratic Party is fractured.

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The progressive wing of the party is pushing for increased spending on domestic programs — and higher taxes to pay for it — whereas its more moderate wing is concerned with fiscal responsibility and defense.

For example, Yarmuth said Monday that he is pushing for a final spending caps deal with Republicans to keep increases in defense and nondefense spending equal, in line with the “parity” Democrats have regularly sought in spending.

Progressives, however, say that goal does not go far enough, and that domestic spending should increase faster than defense spending.

“Rolling back the austerity that has been there for such a long time is critical, so parity is not really enough,” said Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Poll shows Biden leading Trump, tight House race in key Nebraska district MORE (D-Wash.), co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a member of the Budget Committee.

“I mean that’s what we used to go for when Republicans were in office, but we really need to see a significantly higher investment in our domestic spending.”

Jayapal said progressives also want mechanisms to ensure that the Pentagon followed through on waste reduction measures following its first-ever audit, and an aspiration to raise enough new revenue to counter Trump’s signature tax cuts. Including progressive policy statements on climate, immigration, health care, education and infrastructure were also a priority.

The impasse, first reported by Politico, comes a day after President TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump, Jared Kusher's lawyer threatens to sue Lincoln Project over Times Square billboards Facebook, Twitter CEOs to testify before Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 17 Sanders hits back at Trump's attack on 'socialized medicine' MORE unveiled his own budget plan, which called for deep cuts to domestic spending and mandatory programs such as Medicaid, which Democrats roundly rejected.

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Other senior Democrats on the Budget Committee were also scaling back expectations on Tuesday.

Rep. Dan KildeeDaniel (Dan) Timothy KildeeLawmakers fear voter backlash over failure to reach COVID-19 relief deal Democrats set to hold out for big police reform More than 100 Democrats press Trump to extend jobless benefits MORE (D-Mich.), a member of the panel, said he’s still hoping the party will coalesce behind a budget resolution, but the more crucial effort will be passage of funding bills.

“The budget resolution is an important statement; but the appropriations bills are what keep the government open,” Kildee said. “And if we're going to have to spend political capital to get to yes, I'd rather spend it keeping government open than [on] the sort-of statement of values that the budget resolution represents."

From a practical standpoint, a failure to pass a budget would have virtually no effect on the effort to fund the government later in the year, since budget resolutions are nonbinding and Democrats have already started work on their appropriations bills.

But politically, such a failure could prove to be damaging for Democrats, who were frequent critics of the Republicans' failures to pass budgets and want to demonstrate that they’re the more functional party when it comes to matters of simple governance.

On top of that, Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Health Care: Following debate, Biden hammers Trump on coronavirus | Study: Universal mask-wearing could save 130,000 lives | Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight On The Money: Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight | Landlords, housing industry sue CDC to overturn eviction ban Finger-pointing picks up in COVID-19 relief fight MORE (D-Calif.) has frequently framed the budget document as an expression of a party's values. A failure to unite her troops behind that set of values would be an embarrassing setback for Democratic leaders who had vowed to operate the chamber differently after eight years in the minority.

It’s a scenario Democrats are scrambling to avoid.

“I don't want to overstate the need to get a budget resolution passed, because obviously it's not a prerequisite to getting the appropriations bills done,” Kildee said. “But I think at some point in time, our majority, we have to come to grips with the fact that we need to compromise with one another before we can even think about trying to compromise with anyone else."

“The optics of it are important,” he added. “That's one of the reasons that I'm pushing to still see if we can get to yes."

The moderate Blue Dog coalition took exception to the idea that Democrats might simply drop the ball on the budget.

“Passing a budget should not be optional,” said Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), a Blue Dog Democrat.

“The first step towards getting our fiscal house in order is approving a bipartisan budget that spells out priorities.”

Party leaders say they’re still optimistic that the party would come together to support a budget.

"We certainly are planning on passing a budget and making sure that we have our appropriation bills out in a timely way,” Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkPocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair Democratic leaders: Supreme Court fight is about ObamaCare Rep. Robin Kelly enters race for Democratic caucus vice chair MORE (Mass.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters Tuesday in the Capitol.

Yarmuth said, however, that leadership was not pressing hard to ensure a resolution, and had left the decision in his hands.

“Leadership has basically left it up to the committee as to which way we proceed,” he said.

That sentiment was backed up by House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerTop Democrats introduce resolution calling for mask mandate, testing program in Senate Trump orders aides to halt talks on COVID-19 relief This week: Coronavirus complicates Senate's Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Md.) on Tuesday.

Discussions are still ongoing, added Jayapal, who also held out hope for coming to an agreement.

“I would say we’re not at the point yet where there’s definitely no budget resolution, but it’s a line. It’s a line that has to be walked,” she said.

Rep. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackOn The Money: Trump gambles with new stimulus strategy | Trump cannot block grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, court rules | Long-term jobless figures rise, underscoring economic pain Womack to replace Graves on Financial Services subcommittee Ex-CBO director calls for more than trillion in coronavirus stimulus spending MORE (R-Ark.), the ranking member on the Budget Committee and its former chairman, suggested that the process of passing a budget was hard all-around, and called for reform.

“I want you to know I feel your pain. I’ve been there,” he said.

“But it’s like asking if we’re going to do our jobs,” he added.

— This report was updated at 2:17 p.m.