Further Delays as Budget Struggles Continue

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House leaders head back to the drawing board after failing to convince reticent lawmakers to support a budget resolution that adheres to discretionary spending levels set in last fall’s budget agreement.

House Budget Chair Tom Price’s (R-Ga.) proposal to offset $30 billion in additional discretionary spending in that agreement with equivalent cuts in mandatory programs did not appease dozens of Republican lawmakers who oppose the higher spending level.

Those lawmakers want a guarantee that mandatory cuts will be approved and take effect immediately. Price’s plan would spread the cuts over the next two years.

Citing the disagreement among House Republicans, Senate Budget Chair Mike Enzi (R-Wy.) announced yesterday that consideration of his chamber’s budget resolution will be postponed. If the impasse over the budget resolution cannot be resolved, he said, lawmakers can use the spending levels agreed to last fall to start writing Fiscal 2017 spending bills.

The House is in recess this week, meaning actions to potentially move the budget process forward will not occur until mid-March.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says he is still optimistic his chamber will pass a budget resolution by April 15 — as required by law — so lawmakers will be able to approve spending bills before the fiscal year ends Sept. 30. However, the longer the budget resolution is delayed, the less likely it will be that Congress passes all 12 appropriations bills on time. Failure to do so would mean Congress would need to pass a continuing resolution to fund government agencies in the new fiscal year.

On Friday Concord Coalition Executive Director Robert L. Bixby sent a letter to Price and Ryan calling on lawmakers to accept spending levels set by last fall’s agreement so the budget resolution and appropriations process can move forward under “regular order.”  

“The likely result of re-litigating overall discretionary spending levels would be a collapse of the budget process and almost certain elimination of a chance to complete appropriations bills in a timely fashion,” Bixby wrote.

In that case, he added, “those rightly concerned about the size and growth rate of mandatory spending would be left without their best tool to reform those spending programs: the reconciliation process, which can only be used if a budget resolution is passed by both houses of Congress.”

External links:
Concord Coalition Letter to House Budget Chair Supports Regular Order in Budget Process
Seeing Slim Chance of Accord, Senate Republicans Table Budget Discussions (N.Y. Times)
Senate Democrats Push to Begin Appropriations Process (Roll Call)
GOP Struggles to Find Budget Answer (The Hill)

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