In a last-ditch effort to salvage a 2017 budget resolution, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) convened a House Republican conference meeting on April 29 to iron out internal differences pertaining to the total amount of money the federal government should spend next year. Although no formal agreement was reached, Speaker Ryan believes the meeting helped Republicans move closer to the elusive goal of unifying around a single budget proposal. Both the House and Senate are in recess this week for a previously scheduled district work period.
The impasse surrounding the budget stems from the House Freedom Caucus, approximately 30 of the most conservative members of Congress, pressuring the Republicans to cut an additional $30 billion from a two-year bipartisan budget agreement crafted by former Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and the Obama Administration in 2015. Under the current bipartisan budget agreement, federal spending would be capped at $1.07 trillion in the coming fiscal year. The Freedom Caucus, however, prefers the House craft a budget resolution that spends no more than $1.04 trillion in 2017.
Although largely symbolic documents that do not carry the force of law, budget resolutions outline a political party’s key spending priorities and serve as important messaging tools, especially during election years. Passage of a budget resolution is also viewed as a core governing responsibility of the majority party in control of the House of Representatives. In fact, if the House fails to pass a spending blueprint, they’d be the first Republican majority not to do so in the past two decades.
House Republicans already missed the April 15 deadline to pass a budget which means that, absent a legislative breakthrough over the next two weeks, parliamentary rules prevent the chamber from considering any of the 12 Appropriations bills prior to May 15.
Congress is required to pass Appropriations legislation to fund the various agencies within the federal government. If House Republicans are ultimately incapable of passing a budget resolution, it leads to a more condensed legislative calendar to consider Appropriations legislation, thus increasing the possibility of a federal government shutdown.
The Senate is already working on 2017 Appropriations legislation that adheres to the $1.07 trillion spending figure passed in 2015. As a result, Speaker Ryan is urging his House Republican colleagues to drop their requests for the additional $30 billion in cuts because the Senate will not consider any Appropriations legislation that adheres to the lower spending figure.
ACR’s Government Relations office will continue to monitor the negotiations surrounding the federal budget. ACR members are encouraged to monitor the Advocacy in Action newsletter for additional details.