House Republican Leaders Attempt to Thread Budget Needle
George C. Crawford
As expected, the House Republican Leadership is trying to finesse the spending levels in the 2013 Budget Resolution. Saying that the negotiated levels in the August Deficit Reduction Act were "ceilings", the House Leadership is looking at a possible rebellion from fiscally conservative members - many of whom are members of the House Republican Study Committee - who want significant reductions from the $1.0147 trillion contained in that agreement to be reflected in the 2013 Budget Resolution. How large of a reduction? Somewhere in the neighborhood of $938 billion. In order not to lose all Democratic support for FY2013 Appropriations bills, the House Republican Leadership floated a significantly lower reduction - around $19 billion. This would set the spending target at $1.028 trillion. Not surprisingly, that number received a chilly reception from the House Republican Study Committee.
Key to the Republican Leadership being able to hold a significantly higher number than their more conservative members could swallow will be the ability to attract Democratic support. But with House Democrats beginning to rally around their own spending blueprint and steadfastly saying that the August numbers reflected an agreement on FY 2013 spending levels, Democratic support for a Republican resolution is highly unlikely. Add to the mix Senate Majority Leader Reid saying that there is no need to pass a FY 2013 Budget Resolution at all and the appetite to pass a Budget Resolution in the House fade away. If the Senate holds to not passing a Budget Resolution, the House Republican Leadership still may try to pass a Budget Resolution after castigating the Democrats when they were in the majority for failing to do so. Without Democratic support they may have to accede to the lower number. That would accomplish two things - to satisfy the need to pass something through the House and give members the ability to say they voted for significantly lower spending levels - even if those spending levels aren't considered by the Senate. The box the House Republican Leadership has to avoid is being trapped into unilaterally imposing unrealistic spending caps on appropriations bills. That would endanger Democratic support for appropriations bills and would likely result in a series of Continuing Resolutions through the fall into a possible lame duck session.