House Republicans Determined to Produce a Budget

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Friday that House Republicans will, in fact, produce a budget resolution this year.

Speaker John Boehner said so last month. But doubts persisted, and some Republicans even suggested it would be better not to do one.

But in a memo sent out Friday by Cantor to fellow House Republicans about the remaining March and April agenda, he wrote, "We owe it to the American people to demonstrate how we will allocate their tax dollars and balance the budget."

The House doesn't necessarily have to touch the budget issue, because the two-year budget agreement already set top-line numbers for 2015. Democrats who control the Senate already have said they won't pass their own budget resolution.

However, without specifying a date for when the House will actually vote on such a spending blueprint, Cantor in his memo went on to write, "While the president's budget blows past the spending limit previously agreed to, the House Republican budget, under the leadership of [Budget Committee] Chairman Paul Ryan, will adhere to the agreed-upon spending limits and balance in 10 years." Three other bills touching on budget reform also will be taken up, he said.

Still, Cantor's announcement comes amid nagging questions about whether such a plan could pass in the House, and whether Republicans should—or even have to—produce a budget as they head toward November's elections.

If such a budget adhered to spending caps put in place by the two-year, $1.1 trillion budget deal passed in December—which Ryan helped create—passage could be difficult. Sixty-two House Republicans voted against that measure, meaning a similar spending plan would require Democratic support for passage. 

That could be a tough task if Republicans turn their budget into a messaging vehicle that increases military spending at the expense of nondefense programs, rejecting the agreed-upon even split of $63 billion in sequester relief over two years.

Eli Zupnick, a spokesman for Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, said Friday, "The Murray-Ryan deal rolled back sequestration evenly between defense and non-defense and set clear spending caps for each category for two years."

"It would be unfortunate if the House reneged on that deal less than four months after it was agreed to and created uncertainty in what should be a crisis-free budget process this year," he said.

Even some Republicans have suggested not doing a budget, because it could be a liability with thorny details that detract from broader, more conceptual and successful Republican attacks over the economy and Obamacare.

But others say an "aspirational" budget filled with conservative policy could draw more support from the conference and help in the election.

The congressional timetable sets the deadline at April 15—about three weeks away—for completing action on the annual budget resolution for the new fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

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