Partisans Clash Over Strategy on Budget Talks

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 24: Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY) listens as FAA Administrator Michael Huerta testifies before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations committee on Capitol Hill April 24, 2013 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee heard testimony on recent delays in the U.S. aviation industry due to sequestration and also on the topic of FAA oversight.
National Journal
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Nov. 19, 2013, 1:53 p.m.

Top House Demo­crats on Tues­day warned Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an not to bow to the pres­sures from his con­fer­ence and run out the clock on budget talks for a bet­ter ne­go­ti­at­ing po­s­i­tion amid shut­down pres­sures in Janu­ary.

But House con­ser­vat­ives ar­gue that they too want a deal as soon as pos­sible in or­der to give ap­pro­pri­at­ors in both cham­bers enough time to craft spend­ing bills for fisc­al year 2014.

House Minor­ity Whip Steny Hoy­er called on Ry­an, who is co­chair­ing the budget con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, to put a “ser­i­ous pro­pos­al on the table” ahead of the com­mit­tee’s Dec. 13 dead­line.

“Paul Ry­an is a lead­er. Paul Ry­an ought to lead and not fol­low his caucus down a road which would lead to shut­down,” Hoy­er said. “That would be ir­re­spons­ible and harm­ful. And I hope he doesn’t do that.”

Wil­li­am Al­lis­on, a spokes­man for Ry­an, said, “Chair­man Ry­an is com­mit­ted to find­ing com­mon ground. He hopes both parties can work to­geth­er to cut spend­ing in a smarter way.”

Hoy­er and oth­er Demo­crats on Tues­day poin­ted to a let­ter House Ap­pro­pri­ations Chair­man Har­old Ro­gers, R-Ky., and oth­er lead­ing Re­pub­lic­ans sent to Ry­an and his co­chair, Sen. Patty Mur­ray, D-Wash., on Monday, say­ing that if an agree­ment can­not be reached “by Dec. 2 at the latest,” the al­tern­at­ives could lead to “ex­tremely dam­aging re­per­cus­sions.”

“It’s now time for the Re­pub­lic­an budget con­fer­ees to … listen to their own mem­bers and move for­ward, be­cause right now they ap­pear to be try­ing to run out the clock to keep those very deep, im­me­di­ate, and ar­bit­rary cuts some­place that will res­ult in job losses in this coun­try,” said Rep. Chris Van Hol­len, D-Md., one of the budget con­fer­ees.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., who sits on both the con­fer­ence and Ap­pro­pri­ations com­mit­tees, ex­pressed sim­il­ar sen­ti­ments. “We un­der­stand what we have to do,” she said. “The ques­tion is, [are] Paul Ry­an and Speak­er [John] Boehner listen­ing? Do they hear what the ap­pro­pri­at­ors are say­ing “¦ or are they just go­ing to run out the clock?”

Some Demo­crats are us­ing Ro­gers’s let­ter to ar­gue that a split is form­ing with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party between those, in­clud­ing Ro­gers, who de­sire a solu­tion be­fore the hol­i­days and oth­ers, led by Ry­an, who are try­ing to hold off on a deal as long as pos­sible.

Mur­ray pushed back on that as­sess­ment in an in­ter­view Tues­day with Na­tion­al Journ­al Daily, ar­guing that Ry­an is work­ing hard with her to find a solu­tion to the cur­rent budget im­passe. “I would say that he is def­in­itely try­ing to work with me to find a path for­ward to re­place se­quest­ra­tion in a re­spons­ible way,” she said. “The ques­tion re­mains wheth­er he can put the fi­nal peri­od on it at the end of the day.”

Whatever the out­come, con­ser­vat­ives are hardly united around any run-out-the-clock strategy. In fact, ac­cord­ing to sev­er­al GOP law­makers, con­ser­vat­ives are openly em­bra­cing Ro­gers’s sense of ur­gency.

“I think we all want the same thing: Let’s find com­mon ground, and quickly,” said Rep. Mark Mead­ows, R-N.C. “I think the ma­jor­ity of us agree that we need to find com­mon ground now.”

Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., who serves on Ap­pro­pri­ations and has ac­ted as a li­ais­on between Ro­gers and the Re­pub­lic­an Study Com­mit­tee, said the chair­man’s mes­sage to Ry­an and Mur­ray is simple: “Give us a num­ber to work from.”

Graves ad­ded: “$967 [bil­lion] is the law, and we’ve ap­pro­pri­ated to that num­ber in our com­mit­tee. The Sen­ate just doesn’t seem to agree with that. They have a dif­fer­ent read­ing of the law…. We just want to know the size of our slice of the pie.”

Law­makers on both sides of the aisle seem frus­trated with a lack of vis­ible pro­gress on the part of the con­fer­ence com­mit­tee, es­pe­cially after it took months to ap­point con­fer­ees. Ap­pro­pri­at­ors es­pe­cially seem agit­ated with the com­mit­tee’s in­ab­il­ity to de­liv­er a fisc­al frame­work.

“Fi­nally every­body’s to­geth­er in the room. Well, do your job,” Graves said. “Tell us where we need to work to­ward and we’ll get it done.”

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