Overshadowed by the ongoing legislative machinations involving GOP efforts to overhaul the Obama health law, Republicans in Congress are also struggling to approve a budget blueprint for 2018, a document that not only sets the table for next year's spending bills, but which would also authorize use of expedited procedures for a major tax reform bill backed by President Donald Trump.
Republicans had hoped to push the "budget resolution" through the House Budget Committee during the last week of June, but that ran aground amid an internal GOP dispute over restraints on mandatory spending.
Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), the chair of the Budget Committee, had publicly said this would be the week for a vote - but, as lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill, that plan fizzled as well - leaving the GOP still stuck in neutral on budget work for next year.
While the budget resolution may sound like a lot of legislative mumbo jumbo to those not on Capitol Hill, it is integral to GOP plans this year to act on tax reform - that process would have to be authorized under rules of "budget reconciliation," which do not allow for a Senate filibuster.
As on health care, this dispute is entirely inside the GOP - on the budget resolution, it's over the level of future savings from mandatory spending programs, like Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security.
"I’m insisting that we do it in mandatory spending because it is the greatest driver of our debt," Black said during the recess, trying to push her colleagues to agree to future savings, and get the budget resolution moving through the Budget Committee.
Black has embraced a plan that would trim one penny per dollar from mandatory spending - "One penny is all I'm asking for" - but even that has run into road blocks.
Democrats were more than happy to knock the GOP for the inaction on the budget.
"More than six months into the Congress, House Republicans are still flailing on their basic responsibility to pass a budget," said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who used to be on the receiving end of such barbs when Democrats were in charge in Congress, and did not act on the budget resolution.
With no committee action this week, that leaves only two weeks in the rest of July for possible work on the budget resolution by the House Budget Committee; Congress is scheduled - as of now - to leave for an extended summer break on July 28.
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