The annual spending and policy blueprint House Republicans released today envisions expanded domestic energy production and fewer environmental regulations among its prescriptions to grow the economy and eliminate the federal deficit.
House Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) unveiled his budget proposal today, outlining a set of policy proposals that tracks closely with the approach Republicans have championed for the last several years.
"Through policies like fundamental tax reform, expanded energy production and the streamlining or outright elimination of unnecessary regulations, our budget would create an environment where folks can plan for the future with greater confidence and optimism," Price wrote in a USA Today op-ed today.
The budget is nonbinding but sets a blueprint for spending and policy goals over the coming year. The Senate’s budget is expected to be released tomorrow, and both chambers are likely to pass their respective plans before adjourning for recess next week. By mid-April, the Budget committees hope to have their differences reconciled in order to set spending targets for the Appropriations committees to move the dozen annual spending bills before the next fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
Democrats accused Republicans of relying on gimmicks and overly optimistic assumptions to bring the budget into balance within the 10-year budget window while gutting spending on important domestic priorities.
"We must ensure that all people who work hard and play by the rules are rewarded with a fair share of a growing economic pie," top House Budget Democrat Chris Van Hollen (Md.), who is running for Senate, said in a statement today. "But all the Republican budget does is rig the system in favor of the elite — and its phony claim of reaching ‘balance’ is built on a shaky foundation of huge gimmicks. It is a dangerous recipe for our nation’s economic decline."
Nixes carbon tax
The GOP budget report says it "encourages further exploration of oil and natural gas both onshore and offshore in North America on both private and public lands."
The House Natural Resources Committee is tasked with developing the details of expanded energy production legislation — which could eventually be addressed through special budget reconciliation procedures that prevent filibuster in the Senate.
But the committee is directed to find just $100 million in additional revenue over the next decade — a relative pittance compared with how much the government already earns from oil and natural gas drilling, coal mining, renewable energy siting, and other mineral extraction on the federal estate. In fiscal 2014, the government brought in more than $13 billion in revenue from royalties, rents and other payments associated with energy development on federal lands, according to the Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee — which has jurisdiction over U.S. EPA and the Department of Energy, as well as several agencies charged with implementing the Affordable Care Act that this budget targets for elimination — is charged with finding $1 billion worth of deficit reduction over the next decade.
The budget also explicitly rejects the idea of a carbon tax as a revenue raiser. "Such a plan would damage the economy, cost jobs, and raise prices on American consumers," the resolution’s legislative text says.
Following a lengthy critique of various Obama administration regulatory proposals, including EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the budget echoes long-standing Republican policy proposals related to regulatory reform. It includes a call to require congressional approval of any rule that would impose more than $100 million in annual economic costs on the economy, a classification that would apply to much of the portfolio at EPA and the Interior Department, among other agencies.
Department of Energy research and development efforts "should focus solely on breakthrough innovations," the budget says, rather than the application or commercialization of new technologies — functions of the loan guarantee program, among other offices. And the budget would rescind any remaining green energy funds from the 2009 stimulus law — a proposal Republicans apparently couldn’t resist presenting without a reference to the most infamous loan guarantee recipient.
"The government cannot recover taxpayer dollars from failed projects like Solyndra," the budget says, referring to the solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2011, "but it can protect taxpayers from being on the hook for future boondoggles."
On transportation, the budget continues a prohibition on transferring from the Treasury’s general fund to prop up the Highway Trust Fund without offsetting spending cuts, and it leaves open the possibility of adjusting transportation spending levels based on the long-term transportation bill lawmakers hope to enact this year.
The budget also requires that transfers to the Highway Trust Fund be offset in the same fiscal year in which they occur instead of within the 10-year budget window. That requirement could complicate future transfers to fortify the fund, given that the $10.8 billion bailout included in the most recent transportation bill was offset over a decade.
Similar transportation offset language was also included in last year’s House budget but may stand a better chance of making it into law this year, given Republican control of both the House and Senate for the first time in nine years.
Reporter Sean Reilly contributed.