In consultation with Ryan and other top Republicans, House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia has spent the last few weeks trying to draft a proposal that keeps everyone happy—or at least the 218 Republicans needed to pass it. During a private meeting Thursday, Price briefed the party on a reported proposal that would adhere to the agreed-upon spending level of $1.07 trillion for fiscal 2017 but that would also give lawmakers an opportunity to hold a separate vote on $30 billion in cuts to mandatory spending programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. The budget would seek to eliminate the deficit in 10 years and would lay the groundwork for repealing Obamacare under a Republican president next year.
Conservatives, for the most part, weren’t impressed. Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, told Roll Call he was not inclined to support it, and Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, a chief Boehner critic, said he wouldn’t either. “Adopting a budget resolution that embraces funding levels established by President Obama in exchange for promises of future action will not unite the party; in fact, it could exacerbate the anti-Washington sentiment so many members hear from their constituents,” said Dan Holler, the spokesman for Heritage Action, an activist group influential with House conservatives. “Conservatives should reject any budget deal that hinges on unenforceable promises or the promise to finally make good on previously promised legislative action.” Adam Brandon, the president of FreedomWorks made a similar argument on Wednesday.
Officially, the Budget Committee noted that the proposal hasn’t been introduced and the numbers weren’t final. A spokesman said Price would continue talking to members in the next several days, and party leaders haven't said exactly when a vote might be scheduled.
Given the party’s large majority, Republicans have some room to spare and can pass the budget even if a couple dozen conservatives defect. And as Ryan has noted, none of the previous budgets have passed without some opposition, and in a couple of cases, some drama. He started the process earlier this year to accommodate the long summer recess due to the presidential conventions, and the House remains ahead of schedule by a few weeks. Ryan has also highlighted the collaborative nature of the discussions and emphasized that it will be a team decision—and not his alone—whether Republicans go forward with a budget. Still, he is far from neutral in the debate. “I fundamentally believe that we need to pass a budget and that we need to have a full, functioning appropriations process,” Ryan said. “And I laid that out to the members why I think that.” Failure to pass the budget would likely doom the leadership’s dreams of returning to “regular order” and considering appropriations bill individually rather than as a single, too-big-to-fail package later in the year.