Conservatives Add Own Budget to the Mix

Posted March 26, 2012 at 6:18pm

House conservatives today will introduce their own version of a fiscal 2013 budget, offering a stark contrast with the leadership-favored blueprint offered by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan heading into this week’s floor debate.

The Republican Study Committee’s budget lays a marker for conservatives, many of whom think the Wisconsin Republican’s budget did not cut enough government spending, and adds further pressure to the heated intraparty debate over the spending outline.

The RSC budget cuts deeper than Ryan’s proposed $1.028 trillion plan by about $100 billion, capping expenditures at $931 billion, and offers conservatives a rallying cry.

The RSC will offer it as a stand-alone bill this week, and at the scheduled Thursday floor vote, it will present it again as an amendment to the budget.

The goal is not only to offer an alternative to President Barack Obama’s plan in a pivotal election year but also to diverge from the House GOP plan, RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (Ohio) co-wrote with RSC member and Budget Vice Chairman Scott Garrett (N.J.) in an op-ed scheduled to run in today’s Washington Examiner.

Ryan’s plan “represents a vast improvement over President Obama’s goals, and certainly over Senate Democrats, who have failed even to produce a budget for the third year in a row,” the two write.

“Even so, we join the many Americans concerned by the thought of waiting decades to balance the budget. Conservatives in the Republican Study Committee hope to build on and improve on the Budget Committee’s work.”

The RSC has kept a tight lid on the details of its budget, and Jordan and Garrett will release the proposal today at a press conference with other committee members.

But according to information obtained by Roll Call, the RSC budget would balance the budget in five years by freezing spending at $931 billion. That contrasts with Ryan’s budget, which would balance it in 27 years, according to Congressional Budget Office estimates.

RSC members had said before Ryan introduced his budget that they hoped to influence the process enough to avoid introducing a budget at all. A cool reception to the Ryan budget among conservatives, however, made that scenario impossible.

“A Conference budget that takes almost three decades to balance is not credible,” said an aide to a conservative Member. “I don’t understand [how] Members can look their constituents in the face and say that it’s fair for them to wait a quarter-century for their government’s books to balance.”

Ryan, however, has contended that his budget could balance within 10 years taking into account higher economic growth than the CBO considered.

In another notable divergence from the Ryan budget, the RSC plan follows through on the cuts mandated by the sequestration process voted into law in last summer’s Budget Control Act, but would cut the entire discretionary amount from domestic programs next year, sparing defense.

The $931 billion baseline is derived by starting at Ryan’s $1.028 trillion topline number and lopping off the scheduled fiscal 2013 sequester cuts of $97 billion in discretionary spending.

Ryan’s budget instead delays sequestration through the reconciliation process, directing committees of jurisdiction to find just more than $18 billion in savings in 2013 and pushing other cuts to later in the decade.

Undoing the sequester is a major reason Ryan and House Republican leaders still face a headwind from within their own party as they bring their budget to the floor this week.

Rep. Justin Amash, one of two Republicans to vote against the Ryan budget in committee last week, cited the weakened sequester as one factor influencing his “no” vote.

The “cuts do not appear to match the magnitude of the cuts required under the post-sequester Budget Control Act,” the Michigan lawmaker wrote on his Facebook page March 21, though he noted that he voted against the BCA.

Other Members, though — namely Republican appropriators — have said the sequester cuts to discretionary spending would be too deep.

The RSC budget would also repeal Obama’s health care law, repeal the estate tax, cap the federal tax rate at 25 percent and force through the entire Keystone XL oil pipeline project.

It would abandon the alternative minimum tax and include reforms already proposed by the RSC to cut federal regulations on businesses.

Medicaid and other welfare programs would also see some changes, setting welfare spending at pre-recession levels once the unemployment rate drops to
6.5 percent.

But it’s unlikely that the budget will have enough votes to pass the House. The RSC cannot pass its budget on the strength of its own members, and some in the group have already said that they will vote for both the Ryan budget and the RSC alternative.

Still, the plan is not entirely contrary to the Ryan budget. It endorses Ryan’s plan to change Medicare to what Republicans call a “premium-support” model and Democrats call a voucher plan.

Correction: March 27, 2012

The article originally misstated how the Republican Study Committee budget would deal with sequestration. It would not cut defense, cutting $97 billion only from domestic discretionary funds.