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Why Most Conservatives Will Vote for the Ryan Budget, Despite Complaints

Salmon plans to vote for the Ryan budget plan. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)
Salmon plans to vote for the Ryan budget plan. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call)

The budget blueprint offered by House Republicans last year would have balanced the budget in what seemed like a million years (actually, it was 27). This year’s plan offered by Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., balances in only 10. It also repeals Obamacare and institutes Medicare changes sought by Republican deficit hawks.

And yet, there is angst on the right about this budget.

“This year’s budget actually spends more money” than last year’s budget, wrote Daniel Horowitz at, “while all of the balance is achieved through $3.233 trillion in new revenues.”

Those new revenues include tax increases agreed to as part of the fiscal cliff negotiations as well as tax increases that were part of Obamacare. That has led to some anger on the right, including from ForAmerica Chairman Brent Bozell, who said, “The only thing the Ryan budget makes clear is that Paul Ryan spent too much time campaigning with Mitt Romney.”

Among House conservatives, however, the complaints have been muted. Lawmakers who are concerned about the tax increases in the budget are planning on voting for it anyway.

“I will be very surprised if any Republican doesn’t support a budget that gets rid of Obamacare, provides us with fundamental, pro-growth tax reform and balances in 10 years,” said Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a former chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

Even Arizona Rep. Matt Salmon, who has recently been embraced by conservative outside groups for his willingness to buck leadership, is planning on voting for the GOP budget because he thinks it will “move the ball down the field,” according to a spokeswoman.

One key reason for the unity: A budget that balances in 10 years was the conservatives’ plan in the first place. At the GOP retreat in Williamsburg, Va., in January, a “working group” of Ryan, Hensarling and Reps. Tom Price of Georgia, Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio blessed a strategy that included a short-term debt ceiling increase and the 10-year balanced budget.

The buy-in from those five lawmakers is going a long way toward keeping the restive right flank of the GOP in check.

Secondly, conservatives believe the new polls showing voters’ appreciation for the idea of a “balanced budget” exonerates their plan. “It is a vindication of the conservative push earlier this year to push the Ryan budget to balance, even if some conservatives are not exactly enamored with the exact path he took,” said one source off the Hill.

Finally, the budget will not actually affect spending levels. Virtually no one on Capitol Hill expects the House Republicans and Senate Democrats to come together on a mutually agreed-upon budget that reconciles their different approaches.

Instead, the discussion is moving forward to the next debt ceiling increase, where Republicans are likely to ask for entitlement revisions that put the government on a path to a balanced budget at some certain point in the future.

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