- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 20, 2016

House Republicans will write their 2017 budget to the maximum level of spending set out in last year’s budget deal, but will try to come back and cut spending later this year using the same fast-track tool they turned to in trying to repeal Obamacare, the House Budget Committee chairman said Wednesday.

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, said members are leaning toward welfare reform as the best use of the tool, known as budget reconciliation. The process lets them pass revenue-related legislation on a majority vote in the Senate and avoid the type of Democratic filibuster that’s doomed a series of GOP efforts, including Wednesday’s bid to beef up scrutiny of Syrian refugees.

Earlier this week, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee warned Mr. Price not to stray from the pact that Congress and Mr. Obama reached in October to lift the “sequester” spending caps that the parties agreed to in 2011. The GOP used an overseas war fund to secure extra money for defense spending, yet Democrats already fear that Republicans will backslide on their commitments to domestic programs.

“I urge you to resist efforts to renege on this agreement with a budget resolution that reduces discretionary spending to a level that again diminishes our ability to sustain our economic recovery and give American families opportunities to thrive,” Rep. Nita D. Lowey of New York said in a letter to the chairman.

Mr. Price said he planned to abide by the agreement in his fiscal 2017 plan.

“What the leadership has charged us with doing is writing a budget to the letter of the law,” he told reporters.

Conservatives fumed after a tax-cut deal struck by Mr. Obama and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan last month put a major dent in the federal budget, helping to send the deficit soaring by 24 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office figures released Tuesday.

The $544 billion deficit projected for 2016 marks the first year since 2009 that the red ink has grown, and it powers the deficit back up over the half-trillion mark, where it had been for most of Mr. Obama’s tenure.

Mr. Price said reconciliation would allow the GOP to tackle the deficit without flouting the budget deal.

Republicans successfully used the process in recent weeks to put an Obamacare repeal on Mr. Obama’s desk for the first time. Though the president vetoed the effort, it served as a model for the GOP to use the tool again.

“I think that was a positive experience for folks in the House and Senate on our side on the aisle,” he said.

Mr. Price plans to move his budget out of committee during the last week of February, clearing the way for floor action by the first week of March.

Republicans’ plan will include an Obamacare repeal, as it has in previous years, but it will use reconciliation to offer a new contrast to Mr. Obama and his Democratic allies in a pivotal election year.

Mr. Price said their reforms will serve as a “beacon” to whoever emerges from a raucous GOP nominating race for president.

Republican leaders have shirked questions about how they would handle a firebrand nominee like businessman Donald Trump. Instead, they’ve promised a clear, conservative agenda that should sync up with whoever GOP voters pick.

“That’s exactly what we’re going to do. Take our conservative principles, apply them to the problems of the day, present the country with solutions so that they can make a choice, and whoever our nominee is going to be, we think will carry that forward,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said at the GOP’s retreat in Baltimore last week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has more modest goals. He wants to finish the appropriations process this year, so Congress doesn’t resort to the type of catch-all “omnibus” bills that lawmakers have needed in recent years to keep the government open.

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