- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 6, 2006

House Republican leaders yesterday set aside their $2.73 trillion budget blueprint and left town for a two-week break, unable for now to secure enough votes to pass the proposal.

“Our goals for good fiscal policy remain the same and will be realized with a fiscally responsible budget and real institutional reforms,” said House Majority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican. “I remain committed to working with all members to reach agreement on budget-process reforms so we can move forward with the budget after the Easter district work period.”

The budget vote was the first big test for Mr. Boehner, who spent this week trying to placate factions in his party. The more-liberal Republicans were pushing to exceed the budget bill’s $873 billion cap on discretionary spending and secure $7 billion more for health, education and other programs.

Conservatives balked at that.

“[Having] no budget is better than a budget that sends the wrong message to the American people about our fiscal discipline,” said Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the conservative Republican Study Committee in the House.

Mr. Pence and conservatives pushed for a series of promises on budget-process reforms, which they said leaders agreed to late yesterday, but the deal then hit an impasse because members who write the annual spending bills would not sign off on those reforms.

“I cannot and will not support a [budget] resolution that greatly diminishes Congress’ ability to respond to national disasters and makes it more difficult for us to get our budget work done on time,” said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, California Republican.

Among other things, Mr. Lewis does not like a provision in the budget that addresses one of the conservatives’ requests by creating a “rainy day fund” setting aside $4 billion for natural disasters, but requiring a House Budget Committee vote to spend or exceed that.

Democrats said the budget cut key program funding, and they reveled in the decision to put it aside.

“Tonight Republicans pulled their immoral budget from the House floor because they didn’t have the votes. Without the support of a single Democrat, and their party in disarray, Republicans are on the run,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.

Mr. Pence and conservatives said House leaders agreed yesterday to secure tough earmark reform, to rein in emergency spending and to set specific dates that the House will act on giving the president line-item veto authority and on a sunset commission to shut down wasteful federal programs. They agreed to support the budget, praising leaders for meeting their requests.

“I believe the leadership team is talented and effective,” Mr. Pence said. “A budget worth doing is also a budget that changes the way we spend the people’s money.”

Also left undone as Congress leaves town is a final bill to extend tax cuts. House Republican leaders had hoped to reach a deal with Senate leaders on that bill, so the House could approve it before returning home for a two-week break.

A proposal being floated yesterday would have extended a lower rate for capital gains and dividends income, as well as prevented more families from paying the alternative minimum tax this year. House and Senate leaders tried to secure a deal yesterday, but not all parties had signed off, and House leaders decided to adjourn for the break.

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