House Republicans will close ranks to pass a budget
GOP factions that have slowed the process of passing a budget are apparently ready to come together to pass a bill that will balance the budget in 10 years while slightly increasing defense spending.
Some Republican lawmakers want more military spending, while others focus on keeping the budget deficit under control. To overcome these differences, leaders will give lawmakers a choice of plans to vote on in the hope that one will pass.
Beginning on Wednesday, the House of Representatives was expected to begin voting on a range of differing budget blueprints, including three from Republicans who now control both chambers of Congress. These call for deep cuts to social safety net programs.
Whatever emerges from the Republicans' votes has little to no chance of actually becoming law, but it will help Republican efforts to show they can work together and govern.
The Senate also launched debate on its Republican-authored budget on Tuesday, passing non-binding amendments to look for savings to aid veterans and shield children and the disabled from cuts to the Medicaid health care program for the poor.
Senate Republicans put President Barack Obama's budget plan to a vote, but it was rejected 98-1. All but one Democrat voted no to protest what they called a stunt.
Representative Steve Scalise, the third-ranking House Republican, responsible for securing votes, said the party was "coming together" to support a budget in the House.
Deficit hawks insist that "sequester" statutory spending caps be maintained and that additional funding for off-budget war operations be offset with alternate savings.
More than 70 House Republicans, however, want the Republican budget to meet or exceed the overall defense request made by Democratic President Barack Obama.
The sticking point on defense spending is war operations. The leadership will apparently move that part of the bill as a separate item.
There is no chance any of these plans will become law. The Senate is already trying to add spending back, and President Obama won't sign off on it anyway. This means that, once again, Congress will be passing continuing resolutions that don't cut much of anything and fail to reform entitlements – the only programs where enough savings can be realized to balance the budget.