Budget Reveals Conservatives’ Distrust of Leaders

Posted March 23, 2012 at 5:48pm

House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan’s financial blueprint will likely pass the House this week, but resistance from conservatives reveals a growing distrust of GOP leaders when it comes to deficit reduction.

Unlike the Wisconsin Republican’s proposed fiscal 2012 plan, which became a proud rallying cry for conservatives and passed among the group with near-
unanimous support, Ryan’s fiscal 2013 budget has been received with some coolness.

That comes despite the fact that this year’s budget contains many of the same principles — namely changing how entitlement programs such as Medicare are administered — and works off the same $1.028 trillion baseline that last year’s Ryan budget designated for fiscal 2013.

The resolution barely passed out of committee last week, with two Republican freshmen — Reps. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) and Justin Amash (Mich.) — voting against it because it did not cut deeply enough. Other Republicans voted for it despite being on the fence.

The trend indicates a new normal among the most conservative Republicans: No amount of budget cuts is enough.

Members of leadership have downplayed the significance of the resistance in committee. Republican Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, for instance, said he thinks the measure will be successful on the House floor.

“I think there’s wide enthusiasm for it, and I think you’ll see it in the vote,” the Texan said.

But the fact remains that many freshmen and tea party conservatives are more skeptical of Ryan’s budget than they were last year. So what has changed?

As far as the freshmen go, Rep. Mick Mulvaney said, “We’ve changed.”

The South Carolina Republican, a Budget Committee member, was part of the charge to lower the budget’s topline number. Under the Budget Control Act of last year, that was to be $1.047 trillion.

“Maybe we heightened our expectations for what we wanted to have out of this budget,” he said. “If we had gone along with the exact same budget as last year, that wouldn’t have been good enough. We should be improving every single year.”

Republican naysayers Reps. Walter Jones Jr. (N.C.) and Ron Paul (Texas) voted against Ryan’s budget last year, joined only by Reps. David McKinley (W.Va.)and Denny Rehberg (Mont.), who cited concerns over the Medicare changes.

This year, they might have company.

Rep. Steve King (Iowa), who is still mulling his floor vote, said some resistance stems from Republicans being told to fall in line because there would be future budget cuts.

When Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) negotiated the Budget Control Act with Democrats with a $1.047 trillion spending cap, many conservatives felt betrayed.

“I think they’ve seen how that played out. … We didn’t cut trillions,” King said. “And the promise that the House made, from the House to the House, held until we had the debt ceiling vote. And that broke faith with the Ryan budget, so now the budget is not seen, especially by the freshman class, as being as big a deal as it was the year before.”

Mulvaney said he will vote for the budget on the floor. But he acknowledged the pushback comes from frustration with leadership about the BCA, which he voted against.

He singled out the sequester, which mandated a $110 billion cut in fiscal 2013. Ryan’s budget rolls back the cut to about $18 billion in fiscal 2013.

“What we’re saying is, ‘Wait, what you’re telling us now is you — leadership — voted for [$1.047 trillion], and then you — leadership — voted to take $110 billion away from that, and now those things are the law and now you want us to vote on a budget that ignores the law that you passed over our objections?’” Mulvaney said. “I think that violated a lot of our sensibilities.”

Budget Committee freshman Rep. Todd Rokita agreed last week, saying he voted for the budget in committee but might not on the floor.

“I’m committed to at least voting on it in committee so this can be debated more fully on the floor,” the Indiana Republican said.

Rep. Paul Broun said he is considering voting “no” this week. The BCA is a concern, he said, but there’s also another factor: The country is deeper in debt than it was last year, and Ryan’s plan does not bring balance to the budget fast enough.

“The reason I voted for the Ryan budget last year was it was the first time we have been able to put something in place that starts dealing with the biggest economic issues that we face, the entitlement programs,” the Georgia Republican said. “We’ve gotten deeper in debt. … Balancing in 28 years is not quick enough, in my opinion, to ward off an economic collapse.”

Rep. Trent Franks, who said he will vote for the budget, echoed that concern.

“There’s a growing alarm in the Conference related to the nation’s future economic security, so there’s probably even more pressure on the part of conservatives to have even more dramatic impact,” the Arizona Republican said.

Boehner downplayed the resistance, holding that unlike the Senate, at least the House is passing a budget.

“When people get critical about, ‘Oh, well you only passed the budget out of committee by one vote,’ and, ‘Boy, are you going to get 218 votes when you bring it to the floor?’ We’re actually doing the real work that’s required to address our long-term problems. And I believe that we’ll be successful,” he said.

Ryan, along with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), will hold another listening session to address Members’ concerns on Tuesday after the weekly Conference meeting.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz said he thinks the efforts will ultimately be successful. “I think when we can dive deeper into explaining what it does … there will be a lot of enthusiasm,” the Utah Republican said.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.