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Are budget negotiations helpful or a sellout? No surprise, GOP is split

GOP leader Rep. Tom Price explains why he wants to start negotiations with Senate Democrats over how to strike a budget deal. Tea partyers in the Senate are blocking talks.

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Rep. Tom Price, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, speaks to reporters in Washington Wednesday.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

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For weeks, a handful of deeply conservative Senate Republicans have blocked potential budget negotiations between the House and Senate, fearing that, behind closed doors, the two sides could agree to increase the federal debt ceiling.

But the No. 2 Republican on the House Budget Committee, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, believes that Congress should get to work on a budget accord post-haste. A committee assembled to hash out differences between the budgets of the two chambers is, in fact, the perfect way to increase the nation’s borrowing limit and stave off another harrowing trip to the financial abyss, he said.

“If there is an opportunity, to come to a solution on the debt ceiling, the budget conference is the vehicle,” Representative Price told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor on Wednesday.

The difference between how House Republicans see a potential budget conference committee and how leading tea party lights in the Senate view it is simple, said Price, a leading conservative voice on budget and health matters, and a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the House’s largest and most conservative subgroup.

House Republicans are in the majority. Therefore, he said, their responsibility is actually to get things done.

It’s the “difference between a majority and a minority. The responsibility of the majority is to govern and to move in direction of solving challenges. The responsibility of the minority is to create a contrast and to hold the other side to account,” Price said. “The roles are different. That’s not to say they are right or wrong.”

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Mike Lee of Utah, and Ted Cruz of Texas say that putting the debt ceiling into a “back room” negotiation is a surefire recipe for conservative principles to be sold out by the party leadership.

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