The Corner

Are the GOP Budget Talks Moving Toward an End Game?

The House Republican conference huddled this morning to continue budget negotiations. And per a Republican leadership member, there could be some movement toward a deal based on a new proposal from Representative Tom McClintock. (Emphasis on the “could be.”)

With the Republican Study Committee taking an official stance against the $1.07 trillion top-line figure agreed to in October, conservatives are by and large opposing the leadership’s budget. They want that top-line figure reduced by $30 billion. So Budget Committee chairman Tom Price packaged his latest proposal as follows: a budget that adheres to the October spending levels, along with a $30 billion “side-car” in mandatory spending cuts on which members could vote separately.

Many conservatives say they’re only willing to accept that proposal with a promise that President Obama will enact those $30 billion in cuts before the individual spending bills take effect. A tall order.

According to a memo obtained by National Review, McClintock instead proposed that the House seek a rules change regarding how mandatory cuts are figured into the budget. Right now, House rules prohibit reductions on mandatory spending: It’s what makes that spending — such as entitlements — mandatory. But if members can shuttle through a rules change, or at least have those rules waived for the time being, the mandatory cuts that conservatives are seeking could go directly into the budget, rather than in a separate $30 billion package that has little to no chance of passing into law. McClintock’s proposal echoes what Freedom Caucus member Andy Harris put forth in February — a $1.07 top-line figure with mandatory spending stripped out through the appropriations process.

Per the member, this latest ploy to pass a budget is “probably [our] last shot.”

— Elaina Plott is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated since its initial posting.

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