WASHINGTON — The House is bracing for a rancorous showdown over a 2013 budget plan that has already divided Republicans because of a push by conservatives to cut spending below the level both parties agreed to in last year’s deal to raise the federal deficit.
Trying to demonstrate anew their push to reduce the size of the government, conservative House Republicans want to cap spending on programs under Congress’ discretion well below the $1.047 trillion cap set by the budget deal last summer. But House Appropriations Committee leaders and Republican moderates, facing tough re-election campaigns, want to stick to the agreement struck with President Barack Obama seven months ago.
“We voted for it. That’s the number we should use,” said Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H.
The budget blueprint for the coming fiscal year — slated to be unveiled next week — will also reignite the fight over Medicare, an election-year prospect that has both parties digging in.
Whatever the House produces, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has said he has no intention of bringing a budget to a vote in the Senate — meaning the House debate will be essentially symbolic.
But the symbolism could define the battle for control of the House in 2013 between Republicans — who say they are willing to make the difficult choices to overhaul Medicare, limit the size of government and control the deficit — and Democrats running as a party that will preserve Medicare and make the rich shoulder more of the economic burden.
“An argument for a sounder, more sensible future for Medicare is one that we can very comfortably make,” said Rep. Nan Hayworth of New York, a freshman Republican on the Democrats’ target list.
Before they can get to that debate, Republicans must decide among themselves whether and how far to break the agreement on spending levels reached in July during the last budget fight, the one over raising the statutory limit for federal borrowing.