GOP Appropriators to Republicans: Get in Line, or Else

Washington – Even though the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2015 passed the House last fall with just 79 Republican votes, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) 46% said today that the committee is “marching straight ahead” in the absence of a Republican budget by “marking up all our bills at $1.07 [trillion],” which was the spending cap — not floor — set by the BBA. Rogers added that appropriators would be “bringing as many [of those bills] as we can on the floor.” Heritage Action released the following statement from chief executive officer Michael A. Needham:

“Congressman Rogers is sending a very clear signal that the concerns expressed by two-thirds of the Republican Conference last fall do not matter. No one should be surprised though – this is how the process works in Washington.  Continuing down this path may excite appropriators and special interests but it will not unite the party.  In fact, it will likely exacerbate the anti-Washington sentiment so many members hear from their constituents.”

Rogers plan to move forward with appropriations bills at the $1.070 trillion level is just as politically infeasible as deeming the higher numbers. Heritage Action’s Jason Yaworske explained why deeming wouldn’t unite the party earlier this month:

CLAIM: Conservatives might as well vote for a budget, otherwise the budget numbers will just be “deemed” anyway, and conservatives will get nothing out of it.

RESPONSE: It is true that, in absence of a formal budget resolution, the House could simply “deem” its budget numbers for the year to allow appropriators to write appropriations bills (the Senate had a “deeming” provision embedded in last year’s BBA agreement). This could be done by a simple House Resolution (H.Res), usually as part of a “rule” for another piece of legislation, or even on each individual appropriations bill. It could also be considered as a stand-alone resolution.

However, the prospect of deeming a budget at the higher spending levels seems politically infeasible. Budgets, as well as House rules, are generally party-line votes. In this case, however, House leadership would have to rely on Democrats to pass such a deeming resolution at the BBA levels. And that problem would not be a one-time, rip-the-Band-Aid-off event, as House leadership would then have to rely on Democrat votes for every subsequent appropriation bill on the floor (and possibly even in Committee). Such a scenario would not demonstrate the difference between the two parties but rather it would turn the majoritarian House into a “coalition” House for the rest of the year.

The most obvious path forward in the House is to write a budget, and the subsequent appropriations bills, to the BCA’s 1040 ($1.040 trillion) levels, while taking the $30 billion difference from non-defense discretionary spending.