House Budget Chairman Tom Price, meanwhile, plans to have listening sessions with small groups of members before unveiling his own version of the budget. That kind of early spadework is especially important for the largest House Republican Conference in decades, which includes scores of outspoken conservatives as well as a newly emboldened coterie of moderates wary of a budget vote that might hurt their reelection chances.
The GOP's document will be logistically important because it will set the parameters of the federal spending and tax debates this year. But it's going to be a tough for Republicans to meet their goals, says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "They're going for a way too lofty a goal of balancing the budget over 10 years without raising revenues. How on earth do you get those numbers to add up?" she said.
Obama's spending plan, by contrast, would put the country's budget on "a very modest downward path," MacGuineas says. It would break the sequestration budget caps, setting spending in fiscal 2016 at $1.091 trillion. Those caps, agreed to during the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations, limit spending for next fiscal year at $1.017 trillion.
How Republicans plan to specifically address the budget caps remains to be seen. Price has indicated that the GOP budget outline will be similar to the proposal laid out by Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin last year and that it will aim for balance in 10 years or less. That framework, which included steep cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicaid and food stamps, incensed Democrats and made many rank-and-file Republicans squirm. Still, it is probably the most substantive policy outline they have available to lay out their differences with the White House.
While the committees are still mum on more details about how their framework will balance the budget, they want it known that their document will not resemble Obama's in the slightest. Consider the lead statement in the talking points prepared for Republican senators for when they are asked about the White House budget. "The president's budget is about the past, our budget will be about the future," the talking points say. The same line appeared in Speaker John Boehner's budget statement Monday.
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Michael Enzi of Wyoming has promised to deliver a complete budget framework on time, which means it is due by mid-April. His comments at Tuesday's hearing will reiterate his commitment to that task. On Wednesday, it will be the House Budget Committee's turn, as Price will challenge Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan to defend the president's proposed policies. More hearings with administration officials are likely to follow over the course of the month.
The process, once completed, will give Republicans the chance to use reconciliation to bypass Senate filibuster rules to pass legislation of their choosing. Health care, tax reform, and infrastructure are all on the table. And Republicans have to decide whether to use that tool to attack Obama's Affordable Care Act, or work with him on a topic that might yield a bipartisan deal.