After setbacks and infighting, conference comes together for ‘unifying experience’ vote.
Why the 'hell no' caucus is saying 'yes' to the budget
The vote on that proposal — known as “Price 2,” after Budget Committee chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) — was 219-208.
Then, in a final vote, the House approved a budget resolution by a 228-199 margin.
“Republicans are making our vision very clear,” McCarthy said on the floor. “In our vision, Washington lives within its means. In our vision, we don’t raise taxes on the American people. In our vision, we set the stage for a strong American future. … This budget is a better path.”
House GOP smells victory in budget battle
“Budgets are always tough,” added Scalise, who faced some internal GOP criticism about his vote counts before Wednesday’s win. “The toughest thing is that you’re dealing with a bunch of different issues. We worked hard for weeks to bring fiscal and defense hawks together. Very unifying experience. The budget is not only a unifying experience for House Republicans, but it’s a visionary document.”
Throughout the day, Republican leaders were confident their favored budget would prevail. Still, they promised to keep working their rank and file right up to the vote, particularly after a series of embarrassing stumbles early in the year, including the humiliating defeat at the hands of President Barack Obama and Democrats over immigration and Homeland Security funding.
“I think it shows we can start to govern, but I also think it shows that in order to get to ‘Yes,’ we have to start talking about the elephant in the room,” said Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.), a member of the whip organization, referring to the divide in the GOP between between ultra-conservatism and the more modern wing.
Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, who heads the conservative House Freedom Caucus, was a big reason for the seamless, drama-free budget vote. Jordan could have rallied his far-right conservative members against the measure and made life very difficult for leadership, but he blessed the dual-budget-vote strategy, giving conservatives a chance to make their voices heard and leadership a path forward.
War budget might be permanent 'slush fund'
Jordan, in fact, helped come up with idea for multiple budget votes in order to build support for the leadership plan.
With only 188 members, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and her fellow Democrats had little hope of derailing the GOP resolution once Boehner was able to pacify both defense and fiscal hawks.
But it didn’t stop Democrats from trying. Pelosi was especially critical of Republican plans to hold another vote to repeal Obamacare, noting there is no way for such an effort to succeed while Obama sits in the Oval Office.
“It’s time for Republicans to abandon their fuzzy math and their broken priorities and come together with Democrats to pass a budget dedicated to the future of hard-working American families,” Pelosi said. “I think that’s what we all came here to do, Democrats and Republicans. But you’d never know it to see not one, but two, of the Republican budgets they have put forth today.”
House Democratic leaders got a vote on their own budget plan, as did the conservative Republican Study Committee, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Senate vote-a-rama: A charade with consequences
The Democratic alternative, which the minority party claimed would boost wages for middle-income earners, gut tax deductions for wealthy CEOs and keep Obamacare intact, failed 160-264. So did the conservative RSC budget, 132-294, which balances the budget in six years with $7.1 trillion worth of spending cuts.
The Progressive Budget alternative failed 96 to 330, with key
Democrats like Pelosi and Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland voting against the proposal. The Congressional Black Caucus Budget was also rejected, 120 to 306.
The multi-vote strategy is called Queen of the Hill, in parliamentary terms. Under the procedure, only the proposal that got the most votes would be used for House-Senate negotiations on a final budget resolution.
Passing a budget is key for Boehner and the leadership team. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican, said a budget victory gives the GOP a clean slate after a rocky start to the conservative reign on Capitol Hill: “We have had some unfortunate situations we had to deal with, but this will allow us [to] get back on solid ground and move forward.”
Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a senior member of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, took a more measured tone, saying passage is “a really good first step,” while arguing House Republicans “still got a lot of work to do.”
Boehner wants budget with big defense boost
Brady said a House-passed budget should up the ante for the Senate to act on its own fiscal blueprint. Once the two chambers can hammer out a final budget deal, they can get started on fast-tracking an Obamacare repeal or tax reform through the wonky Senate procedure known as reconciliation.
“It certainly creates pressure for the Senate to pass a budget,” the Texas Republican said off the chamber floor. “I mean, no excuses — none. … Once they get that out, we can take the next step and try to find that unified House-Senate budget that really sets us up for reconciliation.”
The Senate is slated to vote on its budget Thursday night or in the early hours of Friday morning, after an hours-long “vote-a-rama” to consider amendments.
Enacting a budget resolution will allow Republicans to force a vote on repealing Obamacare under reconciliation, meaning it will only need 51 votes to get through the Senate, not the usual 60 votes. Obama would veto such legislation, and Democrats would sustain that veto, but it would help Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — and their vulnerable members facing reelection next year — show the GOP base how serious they are in confronting the president after the DHS debacle.
Tax reform could also be considered under a similar expedited process, although the likelihood of a major tax rewrite getting through this Congress is low.
In addition, spending levels for all 12 annual appropriations bills would be set by an enacted budget resolution. That could make it easier to clear spending bills, and keep the government funded, in a more orderly fashion — something Congress has failed to do in recent years.
On Thursday, House Republicans will likely add another feather to their caps, passing a rare bipartisan Medicare reform that puts payments to doctors on solid footing from here on out.
The current so-called Sustainable Growth Rate formula under law has called for cuts in doctors’ Medicare payments for years, but Congress always patched them over so the cuts never went into effect — a ritual that’s become a nuisance for policymakers.
The Medicare deal, struck between Boehner and Pelosi, heads to the Senate later this week, where its fate is uncertain, though looking more promising as Democrats warm to the proposal.
But outside conservative groups such as Heritage Action argue the Boehner-Pelosi agreement costs far more than advertised. Proponents and opponents of the measure both saw something to like in a new Congressional Budget Office report released Wednesday, and they cited different data to bolster their claims that the plan would cut or increase the deficit over the next two decades.