It’s looking more and more like House Republicans are going to blow the deadline to pass a budget.
Fresh off a roughly three-week Spring Break, lawmakers are facing an April 15 statutory deadline to kick off the annual spending process.
Considering that the House started deliberations on a budget months ago to accommodate the abbreviated, election-year legislative calendar there’s almost zero chance the fractious GOP Conference will be able to come together to pass a blueprint in just three days, even though the House Budget Committee approved a plan right before taking off for recess.
While a budget isn’t technically required by law, it does serve as a fiscal framework that spells out the majority’s spending priorities. Failure by a GOP-controlled Congress to pass one would be a major embarrassment for Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) and his leadership team.
Ryan has repeatedly called for a return to “regular order” that begins with the passage of a budget before taking up any spending bills on the floor.
A failure would also signal even tougher intraparty fights in the months ahead. The budget process stalled because intractable fiscal hawks, led by the rebellious House Freedom Caucus, want to cut federal spending by at least $30 billion while more mainstream lawmakers want to stick to last year’s bipartisan budget deal.
That split will remain long after the April 15 deadline and likely would emerge again as lawmakers work through the 12 annual spending bills that fund the federal government.
The House and Senate could still pass a budget after that date if they can reach an agreement, but it’s clear that the upper chamber’s Budget Committee hasn’t even taken up a budget resolution of its own and is tired of waiting.
“I’ve already announced and I’ll announce again today we’re going to move to appropriations next week,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Tuesday during a Capitol Hill press conference. “And we’ll mark these bills to the topline that we agreed to in the agreement last year.”
He said the chamber could vote on what is expected to be a roughly $40 billion energy and water development bill as soon as next week.
“I feel pretty good about the appropriations process,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters. “The allocations that have been set are fair, they’re not as robust as I would like them, they’re fair and we’ve been told that there will not be any poison pill riders,” he added. “If there are, we’ll take care of that,” Reid said, suggesting Senate Democrats could hold up the spending legislation and further complicate the calendar.
The House isn’t resting on its laurels, either.
The House Appropriations Committee this week will move forward with individual 2017 spending bills even though they might never receive a floor vote. The full appropriations committee is slated to vote on an $81.6 billion measure to fund military construction and Veterans Affairs Department.
Meanwhile, two of the committee’s subpanels overseeing the Energy and Agriculture departments unveiled their respective $37.4 billion and $21.3 billion funding measures. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is reveling in the GOP’s dysfunction, putting out a statement chastising the “Do-Nothing Republican Congress.”
It’s possible that Ryan and his team could convince enough of his members to vote for the fiscal scheme the House Budget Committee okayed. However, the significant impasse that exists among House Republicans and the short calendar likely doom the Wisconsin lawmaker’s hopes in a presidential election year to the wood chipper.