House Budget Deliberations: Unanswered Questions and Grand Implications

Healthcare fights may be capturing the nation’s attention, but there’s another fight on the horizon that divides the Republican party. The House Budget Committee is continuing to work through a standoff over funding levels and will have their work cut out for them because of several factions vying for influence over their deliberations.

While reports Thursday night suggested that committee chairs were coming to agreement, there is a long road ahead, with tax reform and countless other issues hinging on the outcome of these deliberations.

Top-line numbers for non-defense discretionary spending is one such point of contention, as House Republicans want to start at $511 billion, below the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) cap of $516 billion.

Meanwhile, some in the Republican side are insisting on a topline for Pentagon funding at $621.5 billion – or $72.5 billion higher than the limit under the BCA. Some within the party have pushed for an even higher level.

The Senate would require 60 votes in order to break the BCA caps, so getting support for this type of plan would require Democratic support.  This is an unlikely possibility without concessions to raise spending on non-Defense discretionary spending.

Conservative Republicans will not be pleased with this plan. Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker has said that the budget committee has already identified $160 billion in politically feasible mandatory spending cuts, and that mandatory savings should be a minimum of $200 billion.

Meanwhile, fiscal conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus are hesitant to break the BCA caps at all, and Budget Chair Diane Black (R-TN) is pushing for an extra $50 billion in cuts to mandatory spending to seek their support, but getting pushback from other committee chairs and the moderate Tuesday Group as a result.

Breaking through all of this conflict will be an incredibly difficult balancing act, and fiscal conservatives will need to keep the pressure on to ensure our voices are heard in the deliberations.

What’s more, this conflict highlights the real difficulty in getting spending cuts, even from Republicans who have run on limited government and responsible budgeting for decades. If neither side is willing to budge from their favorite form of government spending, it will be a serious failure, and voters should take note.