House Republicans Push Back Budget's Release Until After Recess

By Kate Davidson and Kristina Peterson Features Dow Jones Newswires

House Republicans have delayed the rollout of their budget for the 2018 fiscal year until after members return from a July 4 recess, according to lawmakers and aides, amid continuing negotiations over proposed mandatory spending cuts.

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House Republicans are close to wrapping up a deal that would set base military spending at $621.5 billion, surpassing the $549 billion limit under current law, House GOP aides said earlier this week. They are likely to set nonmilitary spending at $511 billion, which is below the limit of $516 billion under current law. The new fiscal year begins in October.

Lawmakers said the biggest remaining issue was how big a mandatory spending cut they want to lock themselves into in the budget document. The budget blueprint is needed to allow them to pass an overhaul of the tax code without Democratic support, through a process called reconciliation.

Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black (R., Tn.) said Tuesday that the committee is working hard and is "very close" to a budget resolution, but she wouldn't say when it would release the finished product.

"There are a lot of moving pieces, this is a little bit of a different budget than we have traditionally seen," Ms. Black said. "We are adamant that we are going to get a budget, we're going to get a budget to the committee and we're going to get a budget to the floor."

The committee had planned to release and adopt the budget resolution later this week, but lawmakers said they learned Monday night that the process would be pushed back until after the July 4 recess as negotiations continue.

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Rep. Tom McClintock (R., Calif.), a member of the House Budget Committee, said the budget would be considered in July once lawmakers had finished their deliberations.

"We come to a decision when we're tired of talking and we're not tired of talking yet," he said.

The budget resolution is largely a symbolic document, but it carries particular significance this year because Republicans plan to use it as a tool to advance their tax overhaul legislation without Democratic support.

If you set goals that are too ambitious and can't reach them, "then you blow up reconciliation if you don't get there," said Rep. Steve Womack (R., Ark.)

The spending levels in the budget resolution are likely to change, but other directions could eventually become law. For example, Republicans are planning to include instructions to shave off at least $200 billion over a decade from mandatory spending, including major safety-net programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps.

Ms. Black said no decisions had yet been made on what those cuts would look like, adding that "the numbers may move around a little bit."

A GOP aide close to the budget process said the committee is still trying to determine how to allocate the proposed mandatory spending cuts across the committees that will write spending bills to implement them. Because they couldn't reach an agreement in time to announce a hearing on the bill this week, they decided to hold off until after the recess.

Write to Kate Davidson at kate.davidson@wsj.com and Kristina Peterson at kristina.peterson@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 27, 2017 19:19 ET (23:19 GMT)