WASHINGTON – Dealing an embarrassing setback to House Speaker Paul Ryan, tea party conservatives are blocking a leadership-backed budget plan as the candidacy of GOP front-runner Donald Trump stokes anxiety among congressional Republicans facing an angry, anti-Washington electorate.
The move by the House Freedom Caucus, the same band of conservatives that toppled Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, would mean that the House would fail to pass a budget for the first time since Republicans reclaimed control of the chamber in 2011. For years, the GOP attacked Senate Democrats for the same failure.
Ryan, R-Wisconsin, cited “all of the anxiety that’s coming to a crescendo in this country” for the reluctance of conservatives to endorse the budget plan, which calls for higher agency operating budgets as agreed to in last year’s budget deal with President Barack Obama.
The fiscal blueprint, released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Ga., relies on eliminating health care subsidies and other coverage provided by Obama’s health care law, sharp cuts to Medicaid, and reprises a plan devised by Ryan years ago that would transform Medicare into a voucherlike program for future retirees. A deteriorating fiscal picture required Price to propose deeper cuts than ever before.
As in past years, GOP leaders have no plans to implement the severe cuts recommended by the nonbinding blueprint.
Instead, the main goal of the budget is to set in motion the annual appropriations process, in which the 12 spending bills that set agency operating budgets are produced. That’s the $1.1 trillion “discretionary” portion of the $4 trillion-plus federal budget that is passed by Congress each year.
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