House Republicans Unite to Pass Budget

House Republicans Unite to Pass Budget
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House Republicans pulled together just enough support to pass a budget Wednesday evening, a victory for an embattled leadership team that has struggled to win over its full conference on tough votes.

The budget passed 228-199, with 17 Republicans joining all Democrats in voting against the measure that cuts domestic spending, ramps up military spending, repeals Obamacare and balances within a decade. 

Rep. Steve Scalise, the majority whip, called the vote “a very unifying experience” for the House GOP. 

The vote came after a full afternoon of debate over the budget and several alternative proposals – one from the Progressive Caucus, one from the Congressional Black Caucus, one from the conservative Republican Study Committee and one from the Democrats. 

In an interesting move, the House considered two budgets from Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price. The first was the budget that passed out of the committee last week – a proposal that cuts spending, turns Medicare into a voucher system, repeals Obamacare and represents a number of other GOP priorities. The second is nearly identical but increases defense spending, a provision added to placate defense hawks who refused to support a budget without it. 

In a “Queen of the Hill” vote format, all six budget proposals received a vote on the House floor, and the proposal with the highest vote total moved forward. Not surprisingly, the Democratic proposals didn’t go very far. The original GOP budget failed with 105 Republicans in support and 139 Republicans and all Democrats opposed. Immediately after that vote, they considered the proposal that upped military funding, which narrowly passed 219-208, with 26 Republicans against it. 

“We worked hard for weeks to bring fiscal and defense hawks together,” Scalise said. “A lot of people thought it couldn’t get done, and the fact that we were able to get that done in this budget ... proves that you can actually set priorities for strong natural defense while maintaining budget caps that are in place to get to a balanced budget.”

Democrats, who spent the past two weeks criticizing the GOP budget and released a nearly polar-opposite proposal earlier this week, again lambasted Republicans.

“While making everyday life harder on working Americans, the Republican budget disinvests in the future of our nation by making deep cuts to education, infrastructure, and scientific research – it is a deeply pessimistic view of America,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said in a statement. “The families we all represent deserve and demand better.”

The budget’s passage in the House, however, is far from the end of the process. On Thursday, the Senate will take part in a so-called “vote-o-rama,” in which the upper chamber considers several dozen amendments to the budget proposal, many of them aimed at making political statements or forcing opponents into tough votes.

After an extremely late night of votes, the Senate will have to see whether it can pass its own budget proposal. Though defense hawks are on board with a switch to increase military spending through a contingency fund, it’s unclear whether Republicans have the votes to pass their budget. They need 51 votes, which means they can only afford to lose three of their 54-senator majority.

If the Senate can get behind a proposal, it opens the door for the two chambers to come together and create a joint budget resolution. This would allow them to move forward on the appropriations process and also open the door to forcing a vote on repealing the Affordable Care Act. They may use a process known as reconciliation to do this because it would force a simple majority vote in the Senate, rather than the filibuster-proof 60-vote threshold, and would likely land a bill on President Obama’s desk, though he would undoubtedly veto it.

Those hurdles are in the future, however. For now, Republicans are celebrating a legislative victory because a majority of the party stuck together.

“This is a huge deal,” Scalise said. “Passing a budget is a very big deal.” 

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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