Posted: 8:28 pm Monday, March 16th, 2015
By Jamie Dupree
After watching Republicans fight each other in Congress almost non-stop since winning control of the House and Senate last November, it should come as no surprise that GOP lawmakers are expected to be at odds over the next two weeks as Republicans try to move ahead with their budget outline for next year.
In other words, don’t rule out the chance that the GOP is unable to get their budget blueprint – a non binding document that does not need a Presidential signature – approved in the Congress.
What are some of the flash points?
1. Balancing the budget
This is not a new GOP goal, but it’s sort of gone underground in recent years, and the new Republican budget plans are expected to take ten years to get to balance. For many more conservative GOP lawmakers, that may not be swift enough. For example, the Republican Study Committee last year endorsed a plan that came to balance in just four years.
— Joe Barton (@RepJoeBarton) March 16, 2015
2. The battle over defense spending
This is not a minor hurdle for the GOP, as Republicans in both the House and Senate want to break the budget caps for defense spending. In the House, a group of almost six dozen members have said if the budget for the Pentagon isn’t big enough, will vote against that GOP plan. “A budget that fails to full fund defense will not pass the House,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).
And this fight is also happening in the Senate:
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 16, 2015
3. Keeping the sequester?
The automatic budget cuts known as the sequester cut two ways – by limiting defense spending, and by limiting social spending. For now, Republican budget writers are ready to leave the spending caps in place, along with an effort to funnel a little more money to the Pentagon, though not as much as many defense hawks want. This is a classic fight within the GOP between those who want to reduce the deficit and those who want to support a larger military. The current budget plan would allow for a discretionary spending level of $1.016 trillion in 2016. President Obama’s budget has extra money for both domestic and defense – it would total $1.15 trillion, almost $100 billion more.
4. Savings from entitlement programs
No matter what the fine print says in the Republican budget blueprint, look for Democrats to harp on any changes to entitlement programs, like Medicare, food stamps and more on the social spending side.
Americans want & deserve a budget that puts the #MiddleClassFirst. Time for better infrastructure & bigger paychecks for working families.
— Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) March 16, 2015
For many Republicans, they aren’t worried about such attacks by Democrats; but there are some GOP lawmakers in swing districts who might not want to vote for a plan that reins in spending on entitlements. It’s something to watch, when every vote counts.
5. Budget reconciliation
If Republicans can stay together on a budget resolution, that would give the GOP the opportunity to use budget reconciliation, the tool that enabled Democrats to approve parts of the Obama health law. But what would the GOP be more likely to do with reconciliation in 2015? Some Republicans want to obviously use it to repeal the Obama health law – but others would like to try and use it for tax reform, something they believe has a chance to be approved in the Congress, unlike the health law repeal.
Here is one example of the bitter infighting going on within the Republican Party – a lengthy news release from veteran Rep. Mike Simpson of Idaho, who slams some of his GOP colleagues in no uncertain terms.
“They represent a segment of our caucus that would rather shut down the government than show the American people we can actually govern,” Simpson wrote on his Congressional website.
We’ll see in the next ten days if Republicans can overcome their internal disagreements and approve a non-binding budget resolution.
Here’s the opening PR effort from Republicans on the House Budget Committee in favor of the plan to be unveiled on Tuesday:
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.