House Republicans Offer Cuts They’d Back in Deal for Debt Limit

(Bloomberg) -- Republicans on the House Budget Committee on Wednesday floated a list of sample budget cuts they could back in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

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The tentative list, put out by new committee Chairman Jodey Arrington of Texas, could form the basis of an eventual proposed accord to avoid a market-rattling US default sometime this summer. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is hoping to meet President Joe Biden as soon as this week to continue talks on raising the $31.4 trillion US limit, which was reached in January.

Biden, in his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday, vowed to prevent any default. He also lambasted some Republicans for proposing to terminate Social Security and Medicare unless reauthorized by Congress.

House Budget Republicans in their press release called on the White House to join the GOP in coming up with bipartisan solutions to prevent insolvency in the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, which are projected to hit funding crises in 2035 and 2028, respectively.

“Democrats should stop preying on the fears of seniors by accusing Republicans of cutting Social Security and Medicare and, instead, work with us on bipartisan solutions to address their insolvency,” the press release said. The only ways to avoid benefit cliffs are to raise taxes — which the GOP has ruled out — curb benefits, restrict eligibility or, in the case of Medicare, curb health-care costs.

Read More: GOP’s Arrington Urges Calm as Debt Fury Rages: ‘Let’s Be Adults’

Arrington is beginning the process of assembling a budget outline that he hopes can pass in the House in April. His press release outlines hundreds of billions of dollars of potential savings for a debt-ceiling deal. While substantial, the savings would likely fall short of the goal of cutting spending by $1 for every $1 increase in the debt ceiling over a two-year period.

The chairman said he hadn’t yet run the proposals by McCarthy as possible offers to Biden in the talks.

“People keep asking me to identify cuts and this was to show I can immediately come up with some common sense cuts off the top of my head,” he said.

The cuts include potentially bipartisan ideas like ending improper payments and fraud in the food stamp program, and clawing back $100 billion in unspent coronavirus funds.

Other ideas are likely to meet greater Democratic opposition. These include stronger work requirement for able-bodied adults on food stamps and welfare, capping Obamacare subsidies at a lower income level and rescinding the Biden student loan forgiveness program.

Also targeted are items treasured by liberals, like environmental justice programs, postal-service electric vehicles, low-emission buses and legal assistance for asylum seekers. The press release calls for ending “woke” items like a Michelle Obama nature trail in Georgia.

The estimates for the cuts supplied by the committee span:

  • $404 billion from Student Loans

  • $281 billion from “improper payments” made by federal agencies

  • $100 billion from unspent Covid funds

  • $87 billion from the Environmental Protection Agency

  • $70 billion from reducing food stamp, child-tax credit fraud

  • $65 billion from lower Obamacare cap

  • $13 billion from certain green vehicles

  • $10 million from legal assistance for migrants

  • $6.6 million from “woke” projects

  • “Tens of billions” from reinstating reinstating work requirements in welfare programs such as food stamps

The Budget Committee’s top Democrat, Brendan Boyle, assailed the proposals.

“Why is it that whenever tough choices are required, Republicans want working families and children to make the sacrifice? Why not keep our children fed and families healthy, and instead work with Democrats to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes?” he said in an emailed statement.

(Updates with Arrington and Boyle remarks, starting in seventh paragraph.)

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