The budget wars returned full throttle to Congress Tuesday as House Republicans rolled out their proposals to cut by half the deficits in President Barack Obama’s own blueprint but also take the government down a path that reopens old wounds from last summer’s infamous debt battle.
Senate Democrats are poised to file their own rival appropriations plan later Tuesday to highlight where the GOP appears to be walking away from agreements reached last August in the Budget Control Act. But showing no remorse, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan is only doubling down — proposing a lightning strike of new domestic cuts this spring so as to undo another element of the BCA — automatic reductions in defense next January.
Racing between television appearances, the Wisconsin Republican hopes to report his resolution from committee Wednesday or Thursday to set up a House floor vote next week prior to the April spring recess. Even as lawmakers go home, six House committees will be left then with a mandate to move quickly on a first down payment of $261 billion in 10-year deficit reduction measures, which could be brought back to the floor as early as May.
The immediate goal is to soften automatic cuts in January, half of which — about $54.7 billion — would come from defense. The sequester machinery was designed specifically by the White House to put pressure on the GOP to come to the table on tax increases as part of deficit reduction. Ryan’s budget now offers conservatives a path out of this box canyon but runs squarely into the Democratic Senate — a prescription for still more partisan conflict before November’s election.