A very big meeting will take place today between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and conservative members of the House Budget Committee, over the budget for the next fiscal year.
Republicans remained at odds Wednesday over whether to keep the discretionary spending levels set in the August debt-ceiling deal with the White House or to cut spending more deeply in their 2013 budget resolution. Conservatives in Cantor’s conference are pushing for deeper cuts.
Members on Thursday said they believed a compromise was on the horizon and that Cantor could bridge differences within the conference.
Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) is trying to get agreement on a framework this week in order to draft a budget during next week’s recess. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office will release a revised budget baseline that Ryan will use to construct the budget.
We went over this issue yesterday. The short version: in the debt limit deal, both sides agreed on a spending cap that set a baseline spending number for the next ten years. But conservatives think it’s too high and want to go below it. This risks not getting needed support to eventually pass a budget which would undermine a key talking point on the right that they can get the budget done. But a budget at the spending cap number would lose significant support on the right. And if Paul Ryan insists on folding his Medicare premium support plan into the budget, Democrats in the Senate won’t go along.
While the spending cap represented a ceiling and not a floor, Senate Democrats treated it as essentially a budget resolution and will howl that Republicans in the House are reneging on the debt limit deal.
I’d expect the compromise to come in lower than $1.047 trillion. Senate leaders are already constructing appropriations bills based on that number. And by all accounts, Ryan will press forward with his Medicare plan. So we’re headed toward a showdown in an election year, and a likely continuing resolution, if not a government shutdown. We’ll know how big the gap between the chambers is after today’s meeting.