Congress' annual budget is a test of how Republicans will govern over the course of the next session and sets out a blueprint for GOP priorities in the coming decades, said Roll Call
In a blog, David Hawkings said that the passage of a spending bill will reveal the extent of internal discord, and will be the first meaningful test for a party that said it would govern cohesively.
"[Republicans] won the midterm elections with a pledge to be more effective conductors of the legislative branch if given the keys to the Senate in addition to the House," Hawkings wrote.
"If for no other reason, that's why the electorate ought to keep an eye on the process beginning Wednesday, when the Hill's two Budget committees open debate on their somewhat different plans for fiscal 2016."
He notes that for a budget to pass, Democrats can be largely left out of the process if 89 percent of GOP House members and 94 percent of GOP senators vote with solidarity.
"But it's well understood how the biggest threat to the Republicans in this decade has been internal discord. They've fractured plenty when dealing exclusively with one another, and their tendency to form circular firing squads looks ready to blossom anew over the budget, the first meaningful test of their stewardship," Hawkings said.
"The infighting has been especially problematic in the House, where the GOP restoration was achieved and is still sustained by the tea parties who view combativeness as central to their mandate. The new Senate GOP majority has the potential to become comparably factionalized — given that it includes a dozen senators elected in the past century, another dozen elected only last year and at least three presidential aspirants."
He said that while budget hawks want to maintain annual spending caps, defense hawks have a separate agenda. Those most interested in shrinking the size of government are the bigger bloc of votes but those more concerned with boosting national security also have a strong coalition.
"In 2010 [Democrats'] cohesion so totally unraveled that no budget made it to the floor of either chamber. Their control of Congress was taken away in that year's election — and the budget process began a period of brokenness that's the status quo today.
"That history makes clear the political consequences for a party that drops the budgetary ball when it's got a firm grip on Congress," he concluded.
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