The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

March 23, 2014

Writing a budget might divide House Republicans

WASHINGTON — Divisions among Republicans over a budget deal and a shortfall in tax estimates are complicating the House GOP's efforts to advance a spending plan this spring.

Party leaders insist the GOP-controlled House is moving full speed ahead to approve one, but it has fallen behind schedule amid concerns there will be enough votes to pass it.

"That's our intent," said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, when asked this month whether GOP leaders would bring a budget to the floor this year.

Doubts exist because Republicans are split by a bipartisan deal from December between the chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and his Senate counterpart Patty Murray, D-Wash. The deal set the spending cap for the 2015 budget year at levels higher than those imposed by a budget and debt agreement from 2011.

Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the Ryan-Murray deal, mostly because they favored lower spending. Most would have to change course and vote in favor of the higher numbers that Ryan has signaled he will use. Democrats who supplied the votes required to pass the December deal probably would not back a Ryan-written budget that reprises future cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs.

The Ryan-Murray cap on spending for the budget year that begins Oct. 1 is $18 billion higher than permitted by the 2011 budget deal and the automatic spending cuts it put in place.

There's no real need to do a congressional budget if the spending cap is already set. Under Capitol Hill's arcane budget process, the rest of the budget resolution is mostly nonbinding. But it does provide a vehicle for the majority party to set forth its budget and tax priorities and make promises to voters.

"I'm planning on writing one," said Ryan, the GOP's vice presidential nominee in 2012.

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