House Democrats on Monday officially pulled the plug on taking up a 2020 budget resolution, announcing that they’ll instead consider legislation this week to increase discretionary spending caps that are set to ratchet back down in 2020.
“We would have preferred to do a budget resolution, and the last time we brought a budget resolution to the floor it got about 140 votes,” said House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth.
House Democrats ultimately couldn’t balance the needs and wishes of their liberal members who wanted the budget to reflect far-reaching proposals on universal health care and climate change with those of more moderate members who said those plans were unrealistic.
“We’ve got a very diverse caucus with a lot of different views about priorities and we know we’re going to get no Republican votes, so it’s where we are,” said Mr. Yarmuth, Kentucky Democrat.
Non-binding budget resolutions are often little more than statements of principles for the majority party, but Democratic leaders had said in the past that adopting a budget was one of the most basic functions of government.
More details on the package were expected Tuesday. According to committee rules, the bill text is to be released 24 hours in advance of a mark-up. The panel is currently slated to take up the legislation on Wednesday at 2 p.m.
But as for the caps increases, Mr. Yarmuth said that the non-defense side of the ledger would get a bigger boost than defense. That would be a big move away from the notion of “parity” that has governed recent two-year budget deals to increase the caps, which were the product of a 2011 spending deal.
“We’re still talking with our members, but I would say there’s no question that non-defense will get the bigger boost,” Mr. Yarmuth said.
That shift is a nod to House liberals, who have said lawmakers shouldn’t blindly support funding increases for the Pentagon.
“Let’s see where we end up,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a budget committee member and co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “For us, the big thing is progressives have really never voted for increases in military. So the only way that it makes sense for us to do that is if we can see a significant increase in [non-defense] spending.”
But such an approach is unlikely to simply sail through the GOP-led Senate. President Trump and other Republicans have lamented the increases in spending on domestic programs they’ve had to accept in recent deals in order to win boosts for the military.
Mr. Yarmuth said he believes the process will still provide for “regular order” as the appropriations committees start writing the 2020 spending bills.
“Our values will be very clearly expressed by our appropriators as to how they allocate the funds,” he said.
But Rep. Steve Womack, the top Republican on the House budget committee, said the announcement was an indication that House Democrats are “in disarray.”
“Their agenda is so full of contradictions that they’re unable to govern,” said Mr. Womack, Arkansas Republican.
Under Mr. Womack’s leadership last year, the GOP-led budget committee did belatedly advance a budget resolution, but the plan never got a vote on the House floor.
Mr. Yarmuth said he didn’t necessarily hold Mr. Womack’s comments against him.
“Steve’s a good guy - we get along great,” he said. “He’s doing what he has to do. I would have done the same thing. As a matter of fact, I did do the same thing.”
The GOP-led Senate Budget Committee also recently advanced a 2020 budget plan, but it’s unclear whether that will receive a floor vote, either.
Members of both parties, meanwhile, appear interested in striking another deal to increase the spending caps. Mr. Trump’s 2020 budget plan stays within the caps, but employs a funding gimmick to allow for a big boost in spending for the military.
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