House Republicans under the microscope as budget impasse reaches 162 days

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – It takes five to do the budget tango: House Republicans, House Democrats, Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the governor.

Leaders for all five apparently agreed to a $30.8 billion budget framework.

But then rank-and-file House Republicans rejected the deal and on Tuesday passed their own $30.3 billion spending plan.

So House Republicans are in the spotlight and depending on who you talk to they’re being obstructionists or they’re protecting taxpayers.

Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” A state House divided cannot produce a budget and on Wednesday it was clear that other caucuses can’t stand House Republicans.

‘The vast right wing has no interest in governing,” said Representative Matt Bradford (D-Montgomery) in blaming the conservatives in the GOP caucus for scuttling the budget deal. “They have no interest in making government work. You have the Senate Republicans, hardly a moderate or progressive caucus, saying this is the deal we agreed to. We need to come to the table and be adults. They (House GOP) are unable to be adults. There’s no maturity in that caucus.”

Democrats also blame House Speaker Mike Turzai for fracturing the agreed-to deal.

“I hold the speaker responsible,” said Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Montgomery). “It is he who has failed to negotiate.”

Dean insists that a majority of Pennsylvanians support a tax on Marcellus Shale drillers which would help fund the new budget. Her bill would do just that.

“We have a Speaker of the House that will not call it up. Why is that? Somebody follow the money,” Dean said.

But House Republicans insist they’re not crazy, right-wing nut jobs but fiscally sane and prudent.

“Should we be expanding Pennsylvania state government at this time and should we be asking Pennsylvanians to dig deeper in their pockets in order to do that?” asked Representative Mike Tobash (R-Dauphin/Schuylkill).

Tobash insists the House GOP is not the problem. The problem, he says, is everybody else that agrees to raise taxes. He also noted that neither chamber has yet voted on exactly what taxes would be required to support the agreed-to $30.8 billion budget. He says House Republicans can claim the moral high ground.

“The desire to expand the size of Pennsylvania government above what the private sector is growing is not palatable to many, many people,” Tobash said.

Governor Wolf is proceeding as if the House GOP defection isn’t happening and insists he’s sticking to the original $30.8 billion plan and ignoring questions about whether he can support the House’s $30.3 billion version.

“I’m disappointed that we’re not all moving ahead as we agreed to, on the framework that we agreed to,” Wolf said Wednesday.

So each legislative chamber has its own budget and the state doesn’t have any 162 days after it was due. Representative Dave Reed (R-Indiana), the majority leader, apparently agreed to the $30.8 billion plan behind closed doors but then couldn’t deliver the votes from his caucus. He says during the negotiating process there have probably been a hundred different plans but finding the right one remains elusive.

“We have yet to find the right combination with the Rubic’s cube that gets you 102 votes in the House, 26 in the Senate and the governor to sign off on. We’re gonna keep moving the pieces until we find the right combination and get this thing done.”

There are whispers at the Capitol that rank-and-file House members are growing restless with their leadership and its inability to seal a deal.


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