GOP infighting stalls budget plan

Andrew Taylor
Associated Press

Washington — The latest budget push by House GOP leaders has faltered, leaving quarreling Republicans almost three months behind on their budget work as they head into next week’s recess.

Tuesday’s deadlock is the result of a battle between conservatives demanding greater spending cuts and the committee chairmen who would have to carry them out.

As a result, a planned vote this week on the GOP’s latest fiscal blueprint was canceled before it was officially scheduled.

Conservatives are demanding greater cuts to benefit programs such as food stamps, but are meeting resistance from other Republicans, including Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, who are balking at politically difficult cuts to the program and the possibility of cuts to farm programs.

House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black has forged agreement with the Armed Services panel to increase the Pentagon’s budget by almost $20 billion above President Donald Trump’s already generous increase, with another $10 billion in war costs tacked on.

The annual congressional budget measure sets “top line” levels for the appropriations bills passed by Congress each year and can tee up special filibuster-proof legislation to cut benefit programs and overhaul the tax code. Resolving the GOP differences is a prerequisite for this fall’s planned effort to rewrite the tax code, a top priority of President Donald Trump and GOP leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Chairwoman Black “is 100 percent committed to getting a budget done. It’s the strongest possible step to achieving real deficit reduction, strengthening our military, and beginning the tax reform process,” said Budget panel spokesman William Allison. The panel typically approves the budget in late March.

But Black’s proposal for $200 billion in cuts over the coming decade from so-called mandatory programs — the portion of the budget that is basically on autopilot unless changed by new legislation — ran into opposition from both conservatives who said they weren’t big enough and moderates who think they’re too large.

“There was never an agreement on the $200 billion. That number was thrown out as an offer. It was never agreed to,” said Rep. Mark Meadow, R-N.C., the chairman of the strongly conservative House Freedom Caucus. “So it’s a work in progress in terms of what we can do on the mandatory spending reduction side.”

Others, such as Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, the conservative chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, are eager to cut. His panel supports cuts such as eliminating the automatic funding stream for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a creation of the 2010 Dodd-Frank overhaul of financial regulation.

“Bring it on,” Hensarling said.