Are GOP Lawmakers Walking Away From The Budget Pact?

Conservative Republicans are seeking deeper cuts in both discretionary and mandatory spending. The White House and Democratic lawmakers are "crying foul" and some GOP veterans caution it could produce gridlock. In the background, three key departures from the Senate Finance Committee could make that panel, which oversees Medicare and much of the health law, less centrist.

Reuters: Conservative U.S. Republicans Seek Deeper Spending Cuts
Conservative Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are not satisfied with spending caps mandated by last year's debt limit deal and are seeking deeper cuts - even if this raises the risk of another government shutdown fight. Republican aides said on Wednesday some members of the House Budget Committee are pressing for a budget resolution that holds discretionary spending at least $97 billion below the $1.047 trillion cap set by the Budget Control Act for fiscal 2013 (Lawder, 3/7).

The Associated Press: House GOP May Abandon Budget Pact With Obama
Less than a year after reaching a budget agreement with President Barack Obama, House GOP leaders now seem likely to walk away from it under pressure from tea party-backed conservatives eager to show voters they're serious about shrinking the government. Democrats and the White House are crying foul and many GOP veterans warn it will produce gridlock later, when the House turns to spending bills setting agency budgets for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 (Taylor, 3/7).

Politico Pro: Finance Committee May Become Less Centrist
The Senate committee responsible with oversight of Medicare and much of the health care reform law is going to look a lot different in 2013, with at least four of its members retiring at the end of the year and others possibly facing tough elections…Democratic Sens. Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine — three of the highest-ranking committee members from both parties — all plan to retire at the end of the year. Each has a record as a moderate, a bridge-builder, or both (Haberkorn and DoBias, 3/7).

Also in the news from Capitol Hill -

CQ HealthBeat: Boustany Presses Sebelius On Possible CLASS Act 'Conspiracy'
A round of hearings on Capitol Hill over the past week has given Republicans a chance to go after the health care law through some harsh questioning of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. ... Following one those hearings, Charles Boustany Jr., chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight, is pressing Sebelius on whether there was a "conspiracy of silence" involving administration officials and advocacy groups regarding "secret" changes to the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) program before the health care overhaul law passed (Reichard, 3/7).

And the Obama birth control coverage rule continues to draw attention -

CQ HealthBeat: Fortenberry Pushes Reversal Of HHS Contraceptive Rule Despite Setbacks
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry said Wednesday that he must "rebuild the momentum" for his bill addressing health insurance coverage of contraceptive services, following GOP leaders' shift to near silence on the issue. It wasn't long ago that Republicans were eager to challenge a recent Obama administration ruling that requires most employers, including some with religious affiliations, to offer insurance that covers contraceptives without co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles (Ethridge, 3/7).

Politico: Are 'Birth Panels' Next? Ask Michele Bachmann
The Minnesota congresswoman said the Obama administration's contraception coverage mandate could be a slippery slope to a point where a "health dictator" decrees that women could only have one or two children. Bachmann, in an appearance on Glenn Beck's online television venture GBTV that was picked up by media watchdogs and liberal websites, said "it isn't beyond the pale" to move from the birth control policy to a government-mandated childbirth policy (Kenen, 3/7).

The Hill (Video): Bachmann Warns Health Care Reform Law Could Be Used To Limit Family Birth Rates
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) suggested Tuesday that President Obama's health care reform law could give the government a dangerous amount of power in individual's health care decisions, going as far as to say "it isn't farfetched" that the federal government could try to limit birth rates by refusing to cover associated health costs after a family has a certain number of children (Sink, 3/7).

The Washington Post reports on the lawsuits surrounding the controversial rule -

The Washington Post: New Front In Birth Control Rule Battle: The Courts
Since November, at least eight lawsuits have been filed in federal district courts across the country challenging the constitutionality of the rule, which requires employers, including church-affiliated organizations that object to contraception on religious grounds, to cover birth control in workers' health plans with no out-of-pocket charges (Aizenman, 3/7).

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