Months after House Republicans began talking about passing a federal budget for 2017, Speaker Paul Ryan (WI) confirmed lawmakers are still doing just that: talking.
“Look, we want to do a budget. That's very clear. The question is, do we have the votes to pass a budget. And that's the conversation we're having with our members,” Ryan said Tuesday during the GOP’s weekly news conference, describing the talks as a “family conversation.”
The admission is surprising given that the House Budget Committee, which Ryan once chaired, last week approved a resolution that provides $1.07 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2017, sticking to the topline figure Congress and the White House agreed to in October.
Once a spending blueprint is out of committee, it usually receives a vote on the House floor the following week. What’s making this year different is the insistence by the far-right House Freedom Caucus and others that GOP leaders tear up the bipartisan budget deal and cut $30 billion in spending.
And there are enough votes between the group’s 40-something members and other fiscal hawks to block the budget’s passage, which would be a major embarrassment for Ryan.
As it is, the fervent opposition by the hardliners is seriously jeopardizing Ryan’s push to meet the April 15 statutory deadline for the chamber to pass a budget. The window is already almost closed, what with lawmakers set to adjourn Wednesday for Easter recess and not return until April 12.
If Ryan can’t convince hardliners to play ball, the possibility that leadership will move onto individual appropriations bills is increased. Worse, a catchall omnibus measure to fund the federal government, a reality even the Wisconsin lawmaker isn’t ready to face, may never even be drafted.
“No, we know we need to do a budget,” he told reporters.
“We're still proceeding on that plan, hopefully getting a budget. But we're having that family conversation,” according to Ryan. “But what we did not want to do is slow the appropriators down for the spadework that they have to do at the committee level. But right now, we're still having that family conversation with our members about how to proceed with the budget.”
However, when pressed if the GOP spending guide would be teed up in mid-April, he replied: “I don’t know the answer to that.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are using the weeks of delay to chastise Ryan and his fellow Republicans.
“It is simply unconscionable that the House Republican Leadership plans two weeks of recess without … passing a budget blueprint for next year,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement on Monday.