He’s got the most thankless job in Congress — writing a GOP budget

A congressional budget chief’s job often looks thankless: Toil to unite your party around a detailed fiscal plan — and then watch your opponents use it to attack your agenda.

But this year, House Budget Chair Jodey Arrington‘s (R-Texas) experience may have set a new low for the futility of the role.

While Arrington wouldn’t commit to a future markup of a House GOP budget, he stressed that “we are making very good headway.” But even if he can finish writing one, a budget would promptly saddle Republicans with political liabilities galore: Including internal fights over taxes, entitlements and the desire among some conservatives to pare back Pentagon spending.

Knowing those drawbacks, President Joe Biden has spent months calling on House Republicans to release a budget as a marker in the debt talks. McCarthy has sidestepped that gambit by rallying his members instead around the package of spending cuts, deregulatory moves and a short-term debt hike that is slated for a floor vote this week.

All of that makes Arrington’s entire effort now appear fruitless, with GOP appropriators preparing to write annual spending bills based on the funding totals outlined in the McCarthy-driven package.

Still, a number of Republicans say they want to adopt a budget, even if it amounts to more of a pure party messaging exercise than in years past. Arrington said friends in the conference have flooded him with calls and texts of support amid rumors of conflict with McCarthy.

Arrington vowed that he has “the confidence and trust of the members” in doing that job. Yet it’s undeniable that the budget chair can most effectively wield power when one party holds both chambers of Congress, thereby putting the party-line maneuver known as reconciliation into play.

Democrats used that filibuster end-around during the last Congress to pass last year’s health, climate and tax bill without a single GOP vote, in addition to Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief plan. Republicans tapped the process in 2017 to pass a massive tax overhaul.

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