“We’re still working on it,” Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers told POLITICO. “We’ve got some work to do.” | Getty
House Republicans still don’t have the votes to pass a budget and GOP leaders are trying to figure out their next move.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) team did a whip check on Thursday. While the check wasn’t completed, it was clear that Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and other top Republicans didn’t have the votes to move a budget through, according to multiple leadership sources.
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There is now a possibility that Ryan and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will start moving spending bills to the floor next week without passing a budget first — a decision that could prove embarrassing for a former Budget Chairman like Ryan. After May 15, the House may act on appropriations bills without passing a budget, although one GOP insider said leaders are also considering passing the blueprint after they begin work on individual appropriations bills.
“We’re still working on it,” Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers told POLITICO. “We’ve got some work to do.”
Leadership is trying to muster enough votes from conservatives to pass their $1.07 trillion budget — the level put in place last year under a deal inked by President Barack Obama and then-Speaker John Boehner. That’s why they’re adding so-called “side car” items to the budget, which aim to trim spending on mandatory programs like Medicaid, but would be very unlikely to be signed into law by Obama.
But some conservatives, who favor a lower spending number for federal agencies for fiscal 2017, still aren’t buying what leadership is selling. Rep. Dave Brat, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, for example, said he would vote against the budget “until the deficit comes down from $535 billion.”
And fellow conservative Rep. David Schweikert said he was still undecided. “There are a couple mechanics that I need a little more detail on,” the Arizona Republican said. “And I have one request in the order of something. I’m going to see if there’s a chance that could be done.”
Given that the Boehner-Obama deal called for slight increases in this year’s spending bills, Republicans will likely need to rely on Democrats to pass the 12 appropriations measures, as many conservatives have warned they won’t vote for them. That opens up a new problem for Ryan: a question of how many Democrats will actually back the funding bills, especially if those bills are loaded with conservative policy riders — and what would he need to do to get their votes?
In an effort to restart the budget process ahead of those spending bills, leadership’s latest pitch to conservatives included an idea by Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) to “weld” together the budget resolution with $30 billion in mandatory savings — essentially offsetting the bipartisan spending boost passed last year that conservatives abhor. The second piece included a pitch by Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) to changes rules in the future to stop programs whose authorizations have expired from receiving any new funds.
Some conservatives sound like they may be coming around.
“I’m considering it more favorably than I thought I would,” said Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), also a member of the House Freedom Caucus.
Still, she’s undecided, and said reservations linger: “I’m hearing people say, ‘It’s not going to even get to the president’s desk, so it’s window dressing.’ … I’m going to think about it awhile longer.”
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.), had his own demand before he would get to ‘yes.’ He told the whip team: “I’m waiting for my mental health bill.”
Even appropriators like Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) say they’re still sorting through the new deal. Dent previously supported the $1.07 trillion top-line without any additional savings and has authored his Military Construction-Veterans Affairs spending bill based on that level. Dent said he’s hopeful the appropriations bill will head to the floor next week, with or without budget.