GOP may skip budget, kneecapping 2018 ambitions

Republican leaders are considering skipping passage of a GOP budget this year — a blow to the party’s weakened fiscal hawks that would squash all 2018 efforts to revamp entitlements or repeal Obamacare.

White House and Hill GOP leaders discussed the possibility of forgoing the painful budget process during last weekend’s Camp David legislative summit, according to four sources familiar with the talks. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that he cannot pass controversial deficit-reduction legislation using powerful budget procedures with his new 51-vote majority — and wasn’t even sure he could find the votes for a fiscal blueprint in the first place.

Abandoning the budget, however, would be an embarrassment for Republicans, who for years railed against Democrats when they avoided one of the most basic responsibilities of Congress.

But more importantly, it would mean the GOP’s 2018 agenda would be sharply limited: Only with passage of a joint House-Senate budget can Republicans deploy reconciliation tools, which allow them to circumvent the Senate filibuster and bypass Democrats, as they did on last year’s successful tax bill and failed Obamacare repeal push.

That means no entitlement reform or welfare overhaul in 2018, a key priority for fiscal conservatives eager to shrink the now $20 trillion federal debt. Instead, President Donald Trump wants to focus on enacting a massive infrastructure package with help from Democrats. And conservatives are not happy about it.

“It’s legislative malpractice to throw reconciliation out the window,” Dan Holler, vice president of Heritage Action, told POLITICO on Wednesday.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), a House Budget Committee member, responded similarly when asked what he thought of the idea: “It’s another data point in a long series of unfortunate data points on fiscal discipline. … In the same way a budget is important for determining spending for a family, it’s one of those absolute necessities and basics of financial discipline in government.”

 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has argued that he cannot pass controversial deficit-reduction legislation using powerful budget procedures with his new 51-vote majority. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

 

 

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