Decisions on Budget, Funding Bills Up to Transition, Ryan Says

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By Jonathan Nicholson

Nov. 15 — House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said decisions on lame-duck legislative session funding bills and whether to take up a budget resolution have yet to be made and would only be decided after consulting with President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team.

“Those are decisions that are being made in the transition team. None of those decisions have been made yet,” Ryan told reporters Nov. 15 after House Republicans’ first party meeting since Trump’s surprise victory. “We are now sitting down with the Trump administration-in-waiting, along with our colleagues, to come up with our game plan for lame duck and also to come up with our game plan for 2017.”

“These are things that we’re working on with the transition, so it’s going to take time to figure out exactly what bill comes where and how it all adds up, but that’s what the congressional process is all about,” Ryan said.

Two Looming Decisions

Republicans face two looming fiscal policy decisions: whether to wrap up the fiscal 2017 appropriations process before the next Congress begins in January and whether to try to adopt a fiscal 2017 budget resolution soon in an effort to give Trump a quick victory in repealing the Affordable Care Act in early 2017.

Prior to leaving for the campaign trail in September, Republicans had agreed with the White House on a temporary funding measure to keep federal agencies funded through Dec. 9. But within House Republican ranks, there was debate over whether to wrap up the appropriations process or hold off in hopes of getting a better deal with a Republican president. The latter view has drawn wider support since Trump’s victory.

But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) said Trump’s election did not end the debate. Simpson said Senate Democrats could still threaten to filibuster appropriations, either in December or in 2017.

“So why not get it done? I don’t want the Trump administration to come in dealing with putting in place a new administration, putting together a budget for Congress, and then having to deal with what we should have done by last October. Clean the table and let them get to work,” Simpson said.

“That’s kind of where I’m coming from, but I can’t tell you that I know where a majority of our conference are coming from,” he said.

‘Sky High’ Expectations

The budget resolution issue also carries some baggage. House Republicans were unable to rally around a resolution this year, marking the first time they were unable to agree on the fiscal outline when in power.

But with a Trump presidency on the horizon, one potential strategy for moving Republican priorities in 2017 is to pass both a resolution for fiscal 2017—the current budget year—and for fiscal 2018, which would traditionally be worked out in March and April.

That would allow each resolution to spin off as many as three budget reconciliation bills apiece, each immune from filibuster in the Senate. Having already used budget reconciliation to move a vetoed ACA repeal bill to President Barack Obama’s desk in early 2016, there has been speculation Republicans would move quickly to do the same in early 2017, handing Trump an early legislative victory.

But so far, House Republican leaders have not done much to educate rank-and-file members on the strategy. And Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) said Republicans need to be wary of raising expectations too high when passing bills in the House.

“We’ll try to load it up here, send it over there and expectations will be sky high. We’ll negotiate with the Senate. It’s doing to come back considerably different and then the inevitable calls of capitulation, surrender and all that stuff,” he said.

Asked if he thought Trump understood those difficulties, Dent laughed, saying, “I don’t know, but he will soon enough.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan Nicholson in Washington at jnicholson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Hendrie at phendrie@bna.com

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