WASHINGTON (AP) — Tea party conservatives have blocked a budget plan backed by GOP leaders, a blow to House Speaker Paul Ryan and a reflection of the anti-Washington mood pushed by GOP front-runner Donald Trump.
The move by the House Freedom Caucus, the same band of conservatives that toppled his predecessor, would mean that the House would fail to pass a budget for the first time since Republicans reclaimed control of the chamber in 2011.
Ryan cited "all of the anxiety that's coming to a crescendo in this country" for the reluctance of conservatives to endorse the leadership-backed budget plan.
"We're the body of government that's closest to the people. We're up for election every other year," said Ryan, R-Wis. "And there's just a lot of anxiety that's out there."
The Freedom Caucus announced Monday night that it won't support the budget measure, which was released Tuesday by Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price. The move by the bloc of 40 or so conservatives leaves the GOP budget well short of the votes required to pass it and reflects enduring opposition from tea party lawmakers over higher spending levels permitted by last year's bipartisan budget and debt deal.
Price is nonetheless pressing ahead with a panel vote Wednesday on the 10-year measure, which relies on huge spending cuts — $6.5 trillion over the coming decade — to demonstrate that the budget can be balanced.
"Surrendering to the status quo or failing to act boldly will mean Americans today and in the future will have less opportunity and less security," Price said in a statement. "It is a plan to balance the budget through commonsense reforms and greater economic growth; to create a healthier economy, more secure nation, and a more accountable Washington."
But as in past years, GOP leaders have no plans to implement the severe cuts recommended by nonbinding blueprint.
Instead, the main goal of the budget moves is to set in motion the annual appropriations process, in which the 12 spending bills that set agency operating budgets are produced. That's the $1.1 trillion "discretionary" portion of the $4 trillion-plus federal budget that is passed by Congress each year.
Conservatives are sharply opposed to last year's budget deal, which provided an additional $46 billion or so for higher budgets this year for the Pentagon and domestic agencies, easing cuts opposed by both GOP defense hawks and Democrats, who demanded more money for domestic programs.
GOP-led committees are moving ahead with a more modest series of spending cuts.