The head of the biggest House Conservative faction said a recent report on the nation's growing debt pushed the group to reject a $1.07 trillion discretionary spending plan for next year.
Rep. Bill Flores, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, told House Speaker Paul Ryan the group will not support the fiscal 2017 budget number that was reached just a few months ago. He said the group came to that conclusion after reading a Congressional Budget Office report that projected the budget deficit would grow from $439 billion to $522 billion, in part due to increased federal spending.
Instead, the RSC is backing a budget of $1.04 trillion, which adheres to mandatory spending cuts passed into law under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but which both parties rejected in a 2016 deal to boost spending by $80 billion over two years. That agreement allowed a $30 billion increase for fiscal year 2017.
"The country has some tough fiscal challenges in front of it and we feel like we cannot put off dealing with those fiscal challenges," Flores said in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
The RSC is a powerful group and makes up significantly more than a majority of the House Republican conference. Without RSC support, there is no way the larger $1.07 trillion budget can pass unless the GOP leans on Democrats, who would likely support the higher number.
Flores broke the news to Ryan on Thursday during a gathering of lawmakers who are serving as the speaker's budget advisors.
Ryan has been working to pass a fiscal 2017 budget by April so that the House can more easily pass the dozen appropriations measures needed to fund the government.
Passing a budget isn't required, but without this critical spending blueprint, it will make it more likely Congress will have to pass an "omnibus" measure.
Ryan told the Washington Examiner that the $1.07 trillion, while part of a bipartisan deal, may not be the budget number Republicans ultimately adopt.
"I'm going to be one of those people who goes with the will of the conference," Ryan said in an interview.
"I'm not one of these top down, cram it down people's throats type of speakers. We agreed to it. That was the number we passed. But we are going to see what our budget resolution is. The whole thing is a work in progress. We haven't finished writing it yet."
Flores noted that the vast majority of RSC members did not support the bipartisan budget deal to raise spending when it was reached last year. But the higher budget deficit numbers make the matter more urgent.
"Particularly in light of the new CBO numbers, we are trying to reset the fiscal direction of the country and do it in an actionable way relatively soon," Flores said.
Flores said he and other lawmakers are not giving up on passing a budget.
"The sense I got was that everybody still wants to work together to develop a budget that House Republicans can agree to," Flores said.