In late 2015, in one of his final acts as Speaker of the House, John Boehner cleared the decks for his successor Paul Ryan and cut a deal that funded the government and suspended the debt ceiling for the final two years of the Obama administration. With spending levels locked in, Republicans didn’t even bother to write a budget resolution for the 2017 fiscal year. This act of omission presented an unique opportunity upon the surprise election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency. With the levers of federal power suddenly aligned in GOP hands, not only would Republicans have the chance to use budget reconciliation to move a legislative priority of their choice with a simple majority, this spare budget offered an unprecedented second bite at the apple.
Of course, if they wanted a mulligan on FY17 they’d have to act fast. So instead of fleshing out a budgetary road map for the tail end of a year that had already been accounted for, Republicans introduced what amounted to an empty shell for repeal of the Affordable Care Act that quickly passed both chambers. The resolution didn’t attempt to prescribe spending levels or other fiscal details, it merely instructed the respective committees of jurisdiction to produce the desired legislation, while leaving them the flexibility to sort out the specifics.