Unable to reach a compromise between moderates who sought additional funding for domestic programs, conservatives who wanted to rein in spending even more, and appropriators who opposed new budget rules, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Republican leadership decided to postpone consideration of the budget resolution that the House Budget Committee passed on March 29. The House is expected to resume negotiations when it returns from a 2-week recess on April 24.
The newly elected Republican majority leader, John Boehner (R-OH), indicated that the new budget rules, and not moderates’ push for more spending, were the major roadblock to passing a budget resolution. “We’ll keep working on the budget process reforms-that’s the biggest issue standing in the way,” he said.
The tough new rules were written by House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) and would allow challenges to emergency spending and lawmaker earmarks, which are sometimes referred to as “pork.” Recently, emergency spending has gained popularity, as lawmakers have used the designation to circumvent budget caps while paying for “onetime costs,” such as the war in Iraq and the rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Appropriators, who are vehemently opposed to the new budget rules, portrayed the move as a power grab by the House Budget Committee. “For years the Budget Committee has wanted to be the Appropriations Committee,” said Representative C. W. Bill Young (R-FL), chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. “This would be a step towards that. If they are going to do that, they might as well abolish one or the other.”
Joining the appropriators in opposing the budget resolution in its current form is Representative Michael Castle (R-DE), a leading House moderate who has said that the budget plan passed by the House Budget Committee is a “nonstarter.” Castle and other moderates have told the Republican leadership that they cannot support the budget resolution unless it includes the $7 billion in additional spending for health and education programs that the Senate included when it agreed to an amendment by Senators Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). “The domestic discretionary number is simply insufficient, and it will be extremely difficult to pass this budget resolution on the House floor,” Castle said.
Meanwhile, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, continues to say that he and other House conservatives would not support any discretionary spending increases over the $873 billion cap proposed by President Bush in his budget. “I would rather have no budget than a budget that says to the American people we are going to continue our big-spending ways,” said Pence.