Neither Side Prepared to Make First Move on Spending Cap Deal

It’s looking more and more that any negotiations between GOP congressional leaders and the White House over lifting the Budget Control Act spending caps will not start until the new fiscal year approaches.

On Wednesday, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said the White House has no plans to reach out to Republican leaders as its opening offer was its fiscal 2016 budget request delivered in February.

“We’ve actually put our cards on the table, if you will, to say ‘Here’s what we want. Here’s how we would pay for it,’ and the next step really needs to be Republicans coming to the table to say, ‘Here’s our proposal on that,’” Donovan said in an interview with CQ Roll Call.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have bristled at President Obama’s criticism of this year’s spending bills, noting the president’s veto threat against all measures that stick to the statutory caps essentially blocks Congress from following existing law. The GOP, similarly, believes the president should make an overture regarding any new agreement to provide defense and non-defense agencies limited relief from the caps.

“Sequestration was the White House’s idea in the first place, and if they want this committee to have more ability to fund the programs they desire, I would think they’d want to come to the Hill and meet with House and Senate leaders,” House Appropriations Chairman Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) said earlier this month.

Clearly, neither side is listening to the other.

“The idea that they would say even though they’ve laid out a budget that doesn’t end sequester that it’s up to us to take the next step, it doesn’t make sense,” Donovan said. “What we need is a plan for the other side that we could then actually negotiate around.”

For his part, the OMB director predicted the GOP would be forced to the negotiating table when they run into trouble passing spending bills for domestic agencies as a result of their austere funding levels.

“The process will break down. I can’t tell you exactly what week or month it breaks down but it will,” Donovan told CQ.

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