- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 22, 2016

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Tuesday that he wants to adopt a fiscal 2017 budget before annual spending bills hit the floor, though conservatives who balked at last year’s bipartisan spending deal said they cannot support a blueprint until Congress cuts $30 billion as part of must-pass legislation.

Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said his caucus is having a “family conversation” about how to finalize a budget before a statutory deadline of April 15 to adopt a resolution, though Congress rarely meets that cutoff date.

“We want to do a budget. That’s very clear. The question is, do we have the votes to pass a budget?” Mr. Ryan told reporters. “And that’s the conversation we’re having with our members.”

The budget is nonbinding, but it serves as an outline as Congress writes the dozen annual spending bills that fund most basic operations of government.

House appropriators posted a bill Tuesday that would spend $81.6 billion on military construction projects and veterans programs. The figure is $1.8 billion above this year’s levels.

Mr. Ryan said he did not want the Appropriations Committee “to wait around and then be caught flat-footed without their work done” while the party wrangles over a budget framework, though he stopped short of saying he would bring the spending bills to the floor.

“No, we need to do a budget,” he said.

Republicans pushed a 10-year spending plan through the House Budget Committee last week on a 20-16 vote, but party leaders who raved about its policy goals still face a barricade of rank-and-file conservatives who oppose spending levels that the parties agreed to in the fall.

Members of the outspoken House Freedom Caucus said the House should have cut spending to $1.04 trillion in 2017, the level it should have been under the 2011 budget deal. But John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, and Mr. Obama rewrote that deal last year, adding tens of billions of dollars more in 2016 and 2017.

Freedom Caucus members said voters are counting on lawmakers to reverse Mr. Boehner’s attempts to “clear the barn” before he stepped down as speaker and left Congress.

“We’ve got to go back to our constituents with a straight face and say, ‘We made up for the crap sandwich. We made up for the barn-clearing,’” said Rep. Dave Brat, Virginia Republican.

House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, Georgia Republican, has tried to accommodate conservatives, including language in his blueprint that would try to find some $30 billion in cuts to automatic spending programs.

Yet conservatives said they are not looking for a bill that will die after a House vote. They said spending cuts need to be part of a bill that will be signed into law.

“In my mind, it has to be something real,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican, said the House missed a chance this week when it passed a short-term extension of Federal Aviation Administration programs.

“Will there be anything else that’s must-pass between now and the July recess? I don’t know,” he said.

The standoff poses the next big test for Mr. Ryan, who is trying to move beyond the past few years, when Mr. Boehner and his chief aides often scrambled for votes to approve eleventh-hour spending deals.

The upheaval also threatened to upend plans by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, to get down to basics and prove his chamber can pass all 12 appropriations bills in a topsy-turvy election year.

Earlier this month, the Senate Budget Committee said it would postpone any action on a fiscal 2017 budget, signaling the chamber will turn directly to the appropriations process under the existing deal.

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