WASHINGTON — What’s one way to avoid a budget fight? Don’t prepare a budget.

House conservatives are threatening to vote against the annual budget resolution if it includes a $30 billion spending increase that was agreed to by congressional leaders late last year. The disagreement is threatening to derail House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan to quickly move spending bills this year in an effort to show that Republicans can effectively handle the basic responsibilities of governing.

Some Republicans are suggesting that one way to avoid a messy intra-party fight is to skip drafting a broad budget framework and jump directly to writing the annual spending bills based on last year’s funding agreement.

“Yes, I think so,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers, R-Kentucky, said Wednesday when asked if he would support this plan.

Going straight to the annual spending bills would be expedient, but it could risk enraging conservatives who have insisted that the House adopt a budget that reflects conservative principles on taxes and spending. Members of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus have said they want the House to go through the entire process of writing a budget and then passing spending bills that adhere to that blueprint.

“Let’s write a Republican budget, a budget that actually lowers spending,” said Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio. “That’s how it’s supposed to work.”

Further complicating the political calculus for House Republican leaders is that moving directly to the spending bills would probably require the support of Democrats if enough conservatives balk at the plan. House Democrats support the funding agreement reached last year and would probably vote for it as a separate measure in the coming weeks outside of the annual budget resolution, which is usually a partisan document. That, however, would open Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to the same criticisms that dogged his predecessor, John Boehner, R-Ohio, who was accused by conservatives of ignoring their concerns.

Ryan said Wednesday that members continue to discuss the best way forward, while expressing optimism that his conference could coalesce around a plan. He said that it is important to get to work quickly, since Congress has a shortened calendar this year because of the election and this summer’s political conventions.

“I’m confident we’ll get this figured out,” Ryan said at a news conference after a weekly House Republican meeting.

The tensions among Republicans highlight questions about the political value of adopting a budget resolution, which does not become law but serves as a fiscal blueprint that lays out the majority party’s tax and spending priorities. While producing this proposal would allow House Republicans to promote their agenda, its practical effect is limited. The resolution does set the cap for the spending bills, but this also can be done through separate legislation.


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