The GOP's Entire Budget Strategy Collapsed Yesterday. Why Didn't Anyone Notice?

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Aug. 1 2013 11:55 AM

The GOP's Entire Budget Strategy Collapsed Yesterday, And Almost No One Noticed  

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House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) (L) said chances of passing the transportation and housing bill after Congress comes back from recess are "bleak at best."

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

This post originally appeared on Business Insider.

By Brett LoGiurato

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House Republicans' latest fiasco confirms the theory: The GOP loves the Paul Ryan budget in theory, but even Republicans can't get it to work in practice.

That was the result of a seemingly nonchalant debate over a bill to fund the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development, which blew up in House Republicans' faces on Wednesday. The THUD bill was, well, a thud, and it was pulled from the House floor amid the realization that it did not have close to the 218 votes of GOP support it needed. Republicans couldn't garner the votes while abiding by their standards — billions in cuts on top of the levels of spending under sequestration. 

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said that the House will return to appropriating the bill after Congress' August recess. But a furious House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers said that was "bleak at best," and other GOP sources said there's little chance of that, as well. What happened here? This bill to fund the THUD served as Republicans' starting point in negotiations with Democrats. The GOP used the Ryan budget — which it passed more than four months ago — as a blueprint for the cuts they would need to make.

But the problem with Ryan's budget is that it works in abstractions, and is never binding. And Republicans learned that, for the sake of saving face while going back to their districts, the heavy cuts projected in the Ryan budget just weren't workable. In a scathing statement, the normally measured Rogers blasted his colleagues. 

"With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted just three months ago," Rogers said. "Thus, I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration – and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts – must be brought to an end."

That last sentence is what Democrats have been saying since sequestration took effect in March. Predictably, House Democrats seized on the news, with Budget Committee ranking member Chris Van Hollen using Rogers' statement as proof of validation for Democrats. Talking Points Memo's Brian Beutler explains how this latest failure could affect the coming battle over the fight to fund the government with a complete continuing-resolution bill:

If House Republicans can’t establish a position of their own, then the Senate will drive the whole process (its Transportation/HUD bill will probably pass on a bipartisan basis this week) and appropriations will be extended past September one way or another on the strength of Democratic votes. 
It also suggests that the GOP’s preference for permanent sequestration-level spending, particularly relative to increasing taxes, is not politically viable. If they want to lift the defense cuts, they’re going to have to either return to budget negotiations with Democrats, or agree to rescind sequestration altogether.

Republicans passed the unspecific outlines of the Ryan budget earlier this year, because they look good in abstraction. But when it comes to specifics, the knife cuts too deep. Meanwhile, the Senate will move Thursday to the next step in its version of the THUD bill.

Editor's note: Also in Slate, Matthew Yglesias explains what the bill's failure says about the larger dysfunction of the House GOP.

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