If not for the continuing controversy of the health care debate, the issue of a House budget resolution would probably have been the headlines coming from Washington this past week.
The Republican leadership introduced their resolution early in the week and it aligns with many of the rumors that have been leaked over the past two months.
The House budget resolution would direct some $203 billion in entitlement and mandatory spending cuts. The House Ways and Means Committee would be directed to find $52 billion in cuts. That means programs such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), TANF, possibly child welfare services, and most certainly the Social Services Block Grant would all be targeted for cuts and in the case of SSBG total illumination.
The budget resolution also sets in place the spending levels that the House Appropriations Committee is now acting under. The resolution directs spending levels that would provide huge increases in the defense budget and additional cuts in non-defense spending below what was written in the law under the Budget Control Act (BCA). In effect, it shatters what was general parity between defense spending and non-defense spending.
For congressional leaders, the prime need for this budget resolution is that it would create a reconciliation instruction that not only would direct the $200 billion in entitlement/mandatory cuts but would allow for massive tax cuts under the reconciliation/non-filibuster process.
Although the budget resolution was approved late Wednesday night on a straight party vote of 22 to 14 it is unclear when they will bring it to the House floor for passage. It is the desire of congressional leadership to vote out a budget resolution before they leave for the August break, but it is also unclear if they are going to have enough Republican votes to accomplish that act.
Moderate Republicans have objected and there may be as many as 20 who will vote against the budget resolution because it goes too far in cuts in both the annual appropriations levels as well as the cuts to mandatory/entitlement programs. On the other side of the philosophical divide are some conservative members who don’t feel it cuts enough in entitlement and mandatory programs and that seems to be a condition for the significant increases in defense spending.
Without any Democrats voting for the resolution this will have to be a party line vote and they can’t afford to lose significant numbers from both the conservative and less conservative caucus members. One way or another however they want the budget reconciliation instructions so they can do their tax package.
It is unclear at this point what the Senate intends to do since senators may not have the appetite for the huge cuts in mandatory and entitlement spending. The Senate does want the ability to cut taxes on the party line vote. It is also clear that Senate leaders don’t want to go along with the annual appropriations cuts that the House is adopting. They would likely be willing to increase the defense spending but not additional cuts for non- defense spending.