Paul Ryan’s Budget Isn’t Extreme Enough for the Freedom Caucus

Prepare yourself for deja vu all over again, as Yogi Bera might say.

Just as the Republican attempt to repeal Obamacare is about to die in the Senate, House Republicans released their latest budget proposal.

Like the spending blueprint released this year by President Trump, the House plan envisions major cuts to federal spending over the coming decade, bringing the budget into balance by relying on accelerated economic growth to boost revenue. Under the House plan, defense spending would steadily increase over 10 years while nondefense discretionary spending would decline to $424 billion — a drastic cut from the $554 billion the federal government is spending in that category this year.

As Kevin Drum notes, when you factor in inflation, discretionary domestic spending is cut nearly in half.

In addition, the House budget proposal includes cuts to Medicare. But apparently that’s not extreme enough for the House Freedom Caucus.

Members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus have been pushing for more aggressive long-term spending cuts in reconciliation. The group’s leader, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), told reporters last week that the numbers in the draft budget could not pass the House, calling the proposed $203 billion in mandatory spending cuts [ie, entitlements like Medicare and Social Security] over the coming decade a relative pittance in a federal budget that already approaches $4 trillion in yearly spending.

On the other hand, members of the more moderate Tuesday Group are objecting to the $200 billion in mandatory spending cuts. Does any of this sound familiar?

Keep in mind that passing a budget proposal isn’t binding. It merely provides guidelines to the appropriations committees. Nevertheless, Republicans have to pass a budget because it is the vehicle they will use to include rules for the reconciliation process they plan to use in the Senate to pass tax cuts with only 51 votes. If they can’t get a majority of Republicans to agree on a budget, they can’t do tax cuts.

It’s not like these divisions among Republicans are new. They plagued former Speaker Boehner throughout his tenure and eventually led to him being ejected from his position. The old adage about how you can’t teach an old dog new tricks comes to mind. Republicans don’t seem capable of learning from their failures. If you are someone who doesn’t want these spending and tax cuts to see the light of day, perhaps that’s a good thing.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.