Price: The GOP’s new budget boss

Price: The GOP’s new budget boss
© Greg Nash

Rep. Tom Price is on the hot seat.

As the new chairman of the House Budget Committee, the Georgia Republican is tasked with building off the work of his predecessor, Rep. Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanDemocrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate Krystal Ball touts Sanders odds in Texas MORE (R-Wis.), to pass a fiscal blueprint that tames the national debt.

But in order to do that, he’ll have to navigate disputes with the new GOP majority in the Senate — a task that began in earnest late Wednesday, as members from both chambers headed to a joint retreat in Hershey, Pa. — and deal with a White House that appears ready for confrontation.

In an exclusive sit-down interview with The Hill, Price talked about the challenges that lay ahead, from balancing the budget to fixing Social Security to deciding the fate of Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Doug Elmendorf.

 

Q: What are the chances you and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziHere are the lawmakers who aren't seeking reelection in 2020 Liz Cheney and Rand Paul extend war of words The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Democrats set for Lone Star showdown MORE (R-Wyo.) will produce the same budget resolution this year?

We’ve talked a number of times, and we’re still working through that. … The retreat might be helpful for that, with both House and Senate members there. Our goal is to get a budget through the House and the Senate that is conferenced and then passed.

 

Q: You’ve said your goal is to produce a budget that balances in 10 years or less. Could a shorter time frame cause a rift within your caucus?

No, because we’ll do it together. … There isn’t a single Republican who doesn’t want to balance this budget as rapidly as we can. You’ve got to determine what the policy consequences are of moving in that direction, and how rapidly we can get growth in the economy as a consequence of the kinds of things we would do.

   

Q: On [budget] reconciliation, what is the most viable option for Republicans?

There’s not a decision yet and not even a consensus yet. The unknown factor is what the Supreme Court is going to do with King v. Burwell, and that decision won’t come out until June. 

[Editor’s note: the ruling will decide whether ObamaCare subsidies can be distributed through the federal exchange.]

I think that, again, along the lines of trying to preserve the greatest amount of flexibility, that we have a vehicle for being able to address whatever challenges arise potentially out of the Supreme Court decision. From my standpoint, a reconciliation bill is one of the vehicles that could be utilized to address any of those challenges.

 

Q: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) recently said a GOP proposal to avert sequester cuts is a “nonstarter” because it would provide more funding to the Pentagon by cutting nondefense discretionary spending.

I would hope that Mr. Van Hollen and the president wouldn’t be so reflexively no. We haven’t even started our discussions. It would be helpful from the standpoint of the American people, who sent a loud message in November, that we work together and solve the challenges that we face … [and] that they actually take to heart what the people said, and that is, to work together. I don’t know how somebody says no to a policy that hasn’t even been identified specifically from a bill standpoint.

Q: What do you think about the coup attempt last week to oust Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio) and the punishments some Republicans received?

I’m not aware of any punishment that anybody has received.

 

Q: Two Republicans were bumped off of the Rules Committee.

I don’t think that’s the case. I think what happened is the conference agreed to appoint seven of the nine members to the Rules Committee. As far as I know, there are two vacancies.

 

Q: Democrats say a new rule the GOP passed last week could result in a 20 percent cut in Social Security disability benefits.

I’m not sure what they’re referring to about a 20 percent cut because, if that’s their position, then it simply isn’t true. The fact of the matter is, the Social Security Disability Insurance Trust Fund is going broke, going broke next year. Not in 2024, not in 2080, next year, 2016. … The recipients of disability insurance through the Social Security fund don’t have any friends on the other side of the aisle that are interested in fixing that program.

 

 Q: On a scale of 0 to 100, what are the chances Congressional Budget Office Director Doug Elmendorf stays or is replaced?

We’re working through a process to make certain that we continue to have an excellent budget office and excellent budget director.

 

Q: Any idea when you’ll make an announcement about whether he’ll go or not?

We’re working through a process.

 

Q: Do you think that will be discussed at the retreat?

Maybe.

 

Editor’s note: the questions and responses have been edited for clarity and length.