House Republican leaders are bringing out the big guns: President Donald Trump on Sunday will implore conservatives to back a budget bill they resent in order to boost momentum for a massive tax reform overhaul, three GOP aides told POLITICO.
Trump will join a rare Sunday afternoon House GOP conference call to rally Republicans behind the budget bill. Its passage would allow Republicans to fast-track their tax plan and move it forward without Senate Democratic votes, potentially giving them a legislative accomplishment Republicans desperately want after their fumbling efforts earlier this year to repeal Obamacare.
Trump’s presence on the call highlights the sensitivity of the upcoming vote for House Republicans, who are typically more conservative than their Senate colleagues. Backing the Senate bill would require them to vote for a budget that does not balance in 10 years, adds $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit through tax cuts, and does not include spending reductions the House had incorporated in its own earlier draft of the budget bill.
It’s not the first time House Republicans have been asked to swallow a budget they dislike. In January, conservatives balked when Speaker Paul Ryan insisted they support a budget that did little to tackle federal deficits in order to advance a bill to repeal Obamacare.
The Wisconsin Republican promised at the time that the next budget bill would incorporate more conservative principles. Instead, House conservatives feel they are again being asked to accept a budget deal they disagree with, this time so that tax reform talks can move forward.
GOP leaders and the White House argue that haggling with the Senate over the fiscal blueprint would delay the tax bill by three or more weeks. Better to just accept the Senate version and move on, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry of North Carolina have told their members in phone calls over the past several days.
Trump has also spoken to some House Republicans, including Republican Study Committee Chairman Mark Walker. The North Carolina Republican — a vocal proponent of the House’s proposed $200 billion in cuts to welfare programs, which were sidelined in the Senate — asked GOP leaders to commit to separate votes on a balanced budget amendment and other deficit-reduction legislation.
The House Freedom Caucus also decided during a Friday conference call to seek a promise from Ryan to bring a tax bill to committee next week and a floor vote on the matter by mid-November.
Many senior Republicans following the tax bill have said they also want to pass a bill as quickly as possible. But congressional leadership wants to move cautiously and ensure members are on the same page, as it did with a tax blueprint in September. They want to avoid the fate of the GOP Obamacare replacement bill, which was crafted largely in secret and then drew criticism from conservatives when it was unveiled.
Right now, GOP leaders hope to release and mark up a tax bill in the next two weeks, according to multiple sources. The plan is to pass the tax bill in the House by Thanksgiving.
“It all pivots off the budget,” Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told Fox News on Friday when he was asked when the tax bill could be released. “When that is signed, sealed and delivered, we’ll announce both the date for the tax reform plan and the Ways and Means Committee markup as well. So the answer is: very soon.”
The pressure by Trump, the White House and GOP leaders to back the budget appears to be working. Even conservatives who dislike the Senate plan say they feel it has momentum.
In a Saturday statement, Walker said the “Senate ignored the House’s attempt to balance the budget and reform mandatory entitlement programs” but that the Republican Study Committee “reached our decision to support the Senate Budget Resolution based on the premise of beginning markup of tax reform legislation within a couple of weeks.”
The group also got a thumbs-up from leadership on a balanced budget vote and deficit reducing legislation, which will likely die in the Senate.
It is unclear, however, whether the Freedom Caucus would make their own support for the budget contingent on House leaders publicly promising to hold a vote on tax reform by mid-November. A decision to block the budget would likely prompt pushback from the White House.
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