Congressional Democrats reiterated their opposition to steep federal spending cuts on Tuesday after Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy issued a vague outline of his caucus’ demands, which include more punitive work requirements for aid recipients and steep cuts to non-military spending.
The GOP leader laid out the broad demands in a Tuesday letter to President Joe Biden as progress toward an agreement to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a default remains nonexistent.
McCarthy (R-Calif.) called for another meeting with the president to discuss the debt ceiling standoff, which is a result of the House GOP majority’s insistence on painful budget cuts as a necessary condition for any borrowing limit increase. The Congressional Budget Office has projected that the U.S. will default on its debt this summer unless Congress acts.
McCarthy wrote that House Republicans’ demands include “but are not limited to” cuts to “excessive non-defense government spending” and stronger “work requirements for those without dependents who can work.”
On the latter point, the California Republican favorably cited former President Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform law that doubled extreme poverty. Biden supported the law as a senator.
As president, Biden has demanded a debt ceiling increase without any accompanying spending cuts. In response to McCarthy’s letter, Biden pushed House Republicans to release a detailed budget plan but stressed that spending talks “must be separate from prompt action on Congress’ basic obligation to pay the nation’s bills and avoid economic catastrophe.”
Bloomberg reported last week that House Republicans are in the process of “finalizing” a budget offer that’s expected to propose capping spending “at 1% growth annually for a decade” and imposing more strict work requirements on food aid recipients. One recent analysis estimated that more than 10 million people could lose federal nutrition assistance if the GOP gets what it wants on work requirements.
Republicans are also pushing for legislation that would ease the permitting process for oil and gas projects.
In a Tuesday appearance on CNBC, McCarthy said he is prepared to recommend $4 trillion in total spending cuts—but he didn’t provide specifics on which programs would be cut and by how much, drawing mockery from Democratic lawmakers.
“If he comes to the president’s office with no specific plan, no specific details about what the Republicans want to cut, what are they going to talk about? The weather?” asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, tweeted in response to McCarthy’s letter that “this scam is a non-starter in the Senate.”
“Unsurprisingly, House Republicans want to make it harder for poor Americans to get food and medical care while making it easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes,” Wyden wrote.
Unsurprisingly, House Republicans want to make it harder for poor Americans to get food and medical care while making it easier for rich people to cheat on their taxes. This scam is a non-starter in the Senate. https://t.co/jZ1eiu3CI9
— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) March 28, 2023
Last week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) released warnings from federal agencies that would likely be targeted by the GOP’s austerity spree in an effort to highlight the far-reaching impacts of spending cuts the party has floated thus far.
“The draconian cuts would take away the opportunity for 80,000 people to attend college and impact all 6.6 million students who rely on Pell Grants,” DeLauro said, citing agency estimates. “If implemented, 200,000 children will lose access to Head Start, and 100,000 children will lose access to childcare, undermining early education and parents’ ability to go to work.”
DeLauro wrote Tuesday that “Republican calls to cut government funding put everything from child care to opioid treatment and mental health services to nutrition assistance at risk for millions.”
Sharon Parrott, president of the Center on Budget and Policy, echoed concerns about the potentially devastating effects of the House GOP’s plans.
“The recent turmoil in the banking system pales in comparison to the chaos and harm that could ensue if House Rs force a debt-limit impasse and default: recession, lost jobs, and critical payments to seniors, veterans, businesses, families, and states unpaid,” Parrott wrote Tuesday following the release of McCarthy’s letter.
“A letter isn’t a budget,” Parrott continued, “so it conveniently allows House Rs to hide that these cuts—in basic food assistance, healthcare, and programs that fund child care, schools, and more—would go to cover some of the cost of more tax cuts for the wealthy rather than to reduce the deficit.”