POLITICS

House Republican: Balanced Budget Promise Is 'Hooey'

03/17/2015 06:10 pm ET | Updated Mar 18, 2015

WASHINGTON -- House conservatives seemed unenthused on Tuesday with the safety net-cutting budget plan put out by their conference. They said they were concerned with "gimmicks" used to add money to defense without violating budget caps, and skeptical of the promise that the budget would be balanced in 10 years.

But they didn't rule out supporting it.

"I'm still trying to get to 'yes' because it does set forth a vision for what we should be doing as Republicans," Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) said at a monthly event called Conversations with Conservatives. "The question is, will we actually do the things that the budget requires us to do?"

The House GOP plan unveiled on Tuesday promised a balanced budget in 10 years based on cutbacks that include ending the Affordable Care Act and reducing funding for welfare and nutrition programs. But how they would actually achieve that balance is unclear, because they provided no details about how taxes -- a necessary component to ensure enough money would be coming into the government to keep its finances stable -- would fit into the equation.

At the conservatives event, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) said he doesn't think anyone truly thinks the budget will be balanced in a decade, because Congress keeps pushing off painful cuts.

"I don't know anybody who honestly believes we're going to balance the budget in 10 years," Buck said. "It's all hooey. ... We keep talking about, 'We're going to pay for this in 10 years,' but the reality is it gets much more difficult 10 years from now to balance the budget than it does right now."

Some conservative members were critical of the proposal to add funding to fight terrorism to the Overseas Contingency Operations account rather than the main budget, which was done to avoid going over the spending caps in the 2011 Budget Control Act.

"I understand some of the concerns from defense hawks, who want to blow through the caps, but I'm tired of seeing gimmicks in the budget process," Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said at the event.

Labrador said the GOP should "be honest and put it in the budget" if they wanted to increase military spending. But he said his qualms with that point wouldn't make him rule out supporting the budget.

"I'm not going to allow that to be the reason I vote against the budget, even though I don't like the trick that is being used," he said.

Even conservatives with concerns about the budget may be inclined to support it because of the opportunity it would give to take another whack at Obamacare. Two Republicans, Reps. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), said at the event that their hope is that an Obamacare repeal could be added in the reconciliation process, which would happen after the budget passed both chambers and would not require 60 votes in the Senate.

"I think reconciliation language will be a motivating reason for, I think, many of us to lean toward supporting the budget," Jordan said.

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