Dems to GOP: Show Us Your Plan To Cut Federal Spending

Republicans say they want budget cuts, but are loath to say where they should be made.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
President Biden meets with Democratic lawmakers at the White House to discuss the debt ceiling. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

With House Republicans fractured over budget negotiations, Democrats are going on the offensive — highlighting the lack of a coherent plan from the GOP.

The House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, rounded on Republicans for demanding spending cuts but not teeing up any concrete proposals about where those cuts can be made. “They want to have a conversation, and we don’t even have a document in front of us for which to have a discussion around what future investments in the American people should look like,” Mr. Jeffries said during a press conference Thursday.

The Senate majority leader, Charles Schumer, made a similar point, saying that there’s no point in Republicans trying to negotiate with Democrats before they have a plan of their own.

“Until Speaker McCarthy has a plan and a plan that can pass in the House with his Republican support, his going to the White House is like going with no cards in his hand,” Mr. Schumer said. “Show your own caucus the plan and see if you’ve got the votes to pass it.”

So far, no such plan has emerged from the fractured Republican conference, and it’s not clear when the speaker will have one. According to reporting from Roll Call, Republicans are considering passing a temporary suspension of the debt ceiling that would push the deadline until the end of the fiscal year, September 30.

This would theoretically both buy House Republicans more time to come up with a plan as well as put more pressure on Democrats to cut a deal in order to avoid both a debt default and a government shutdown in the fall. 

So far, Republicans have demanded budget cuts that would revert spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, but promised not to touch Social Security, Medicare, or the military. They haven’t, however, presented how exactly they plan to make these cuts.

The House majority whip, Steve Scalise, has targeted unspent Covid relief funds as a potential cost-saving measure and, at a press conference Wednesday, reiterated that cuts to Social Security were not on the table.

Speaker McCarthy has nonspecifically targeted discretionary spending as a venue for budget cuts. If Republicans have already agreed not to cut military spending, though, cuts would need to be deep to meet their goals.

According to Senator Paul, the idea that Republicans are going to meet their budget target without touching the military budget or Social Security and Medicare is unrealistic.

“Republicans would have to give up the sacred cow that says, ‘We will never touch a dollar in military’ and the Democrats would have to give up the sacred cow that they will never touch a dollar in welfare,” Mr. Paul said.

Both parties, he said, should acknowledge this and come to the bargaining table sooner rather than later. “When you make the cuts across the board they aren’t as big as you’d think they actually would be,” Mr. Paul said. “President Biden needs to know, absolutely he will negotiate and it’s better to start now.”

Cutting the budget without touching the military, or Social Security and Medicare, presents a problem because those entitlement programs, when combined with other mandatory spending and the military, make up the vast majority of government spending.

This means that Republicans are theoretically hoping to achieve their budget-cutting goals with deep cuts to the remaining spending, which accounts for only about 16 percent of the government total. Concentrating  cuts in this area would mean serious setbacks to some basic and popular programs like infrastructure investments or border security.

“They want to lecture us — lecture us — about fiscal responsibility,”  Mr. Jeffries said at a press conference Thursday. “Twenty-five percent of the nation’s debt was incurred during the Trump presidency.” 

He also took the opportunity to highlight the lack of a specific plan from the GOP.

“What is your plan to address your concerns? Is it to radically cut Social Security? Show us the plan. Is it to radically cut Medicare? Show us the plan. Drastically diminish veterans’ benefits? Show us the plan,” Mr. Jeffries said. 

Already, members of the centrist Problem Solvers Caucus are preparing an alternative plan to whatever Mr. McCarthy eventually proposes, according to Representative Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican.

“We are here to drive solutions up the center and to overcome the extremes,” Mr. Fitzpatrick told MSNBC. “We’re trying to offer an alternative, have one at the ready, that’s a bipartisan solution that we hope to offer up soon.”

Although the details of this plan are not yet public, it would present a problem to Mr. McCarthy, who has been beholden to the right flank of the Republican conference since the speaker election battle and could be ousted by just a handful of Republicans.

The New York Sun

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