Alternative GOP budget proposal ‘dead on arrival,’ shutdown worries continue

This story has been updated Sept. 17 to include comment from Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky). 

Some House Democrats are actively pushing for a short-term continuing resolution that would keep the government open past Sept. 30, when the fiscal year ends and automatic spending cuts under sequestration kick back in.

Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said there have been few bipartisan negotiations so far, and a new budget proposal from the Republican Study Committee has them particularly worried.

“We’ve been trying to get the Speaker [John Boehner (R-Ohio)] engaged in bipartisan conversation for months now. It’s been radio silence,” Van Hollen (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Budget Committee, said during a conference call with reporters on Sept. 16.

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The Republican Study Committee introduced the Responsible Spending and Accountability Act, which bundles 12 appropriations bills together under one omnibus bill. Half of those bills cleared the full House and the other six passed in their respective committees. The bill also defunds Planned Parenthood, the Affordable Care Act and President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) leads the Republican Study Committee, which lists 172 Republican members from the House of Representatives.

“Looking at this, we can only conclude that 70 percent of the House Republican caucus is itching to once again shut down the government, even though we know what a steep price we paid two years ago,” Van Hollen said. 

 

A request for comment from House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) was not immediately returned.

 

“The Chairman is pleased that the RSC supports all of our appropriations bills and looks forward to their continued support as we complete the annual appropriations process for fiscal year 2015,” a spokesperson for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) wrote to Federal News Radio.

The proposal from the Republican Study Committee, Lowey said, is “dead on arrival.”

“For months, Democrats have urged Republicans to begin bipartisan budget negotiations,” said Lowey, the House Appropriations ranking member. “The Speaker has wasted time, failed to do, and now it’s time to stand up to get a grip on the most extreme elements in his conference and pass a short-term continuing resolution to buy time for serious negotiations on a new budget framework that helps move the country forward.”

Republicans threatened to stop funding for Planned Parenthood before Congress left for its August recess. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said the government will not shut down over this issue.

But Lowey said she hasn’t seen any evidence of a bill that separates the Planned Parenthood debate from the fiscal budget process.

Van Hollen and Lowey, along with Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), introduced the Prevent a Government Shutdown Act, which calls on Congress to start budget negotiations and raise spending levels under the Budget Control Act.

In the event the government does shut down, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) introduced legislation Sept. 15 that would make sure federal employees get paid. The Federal Employees Fair Treatment Act of 2015, which has support from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), also would let federal employees take their scheduled leave during the shutdown.

“Employees who are furloughed or forced to work without pay during a shutdown shouldn’t be punished because they didn’t create the problem,”  said NTEU National President Tony Reardon in a statement. “That said, NTEU is working hard to avert a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and ensure that agencies get the funding they need to fulfill their critical missions.”

The 16-day government shutdown two years ago furloughed some 850,000 federal employees in the beginning, according to the Congressional Research Service. Employees were furloughed the equivalent of 6.6 million work days,  and the lost productivity cost the government about $2 billion. The CRS report was obtained by the Federation of American Scientists.

In contrast to the Republican Study Committee’s new budget proposal, the bipartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has its own budget offering.

The committee suggests Congress set new spending caps above current sequester levels at about $320 billion. The think tank said savings would come in part, by expanding policies under the Murray-Ryan Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013, adopting the chained CPI and limiting Defense spending to the roughly $534 billion President Barack Obama requested.