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House Republicans are making clear that they intend to seek cuts to entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare with their new majority in the 118th Congress.
Their plans to target health care programs follow demands from a group of conservatives that helped elect House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over the weekend. Those far-right lawmakers have sought across-the-board spending cuts in order to tackle the growing national debt.
But the narrow House GOP majority ― McCarthy can afford to lose just four votes on any bill ― is far more divided on cuts to defense spending than for entitlement programs.
“I’m all for a balanced budget, but we’re not going to do it on the backs of our troops and our military,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.), a former Army Green Beret, said Monday during an interview on Fox Business. “If we really want to talk about the debt and spending, it’s the entitlements programs.”
As part of his list of concessions to conservatives, McCarthy reportedly agreed to cap spending for the next year at fiscal 2022 levels, which would amount to over $130 billion in cuts from last month’s $1.7 trillion government funding bill.
Republicans don’t plan to alter benefits for current Social Security and Medicare recipients, according to Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas).
“What we have been very clear about is, we’re not going to touch the benefits that are going to people relying on the benefits under Social Security and Medicare,” Roy said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But we all have to be honest about sitting at the table and figuring out how we’re going to make those work, how we’re going to deal with defense spending and how we’re going to deal with nondefense discretionary spending.”
The Republican Study Committee proposed a budget for fiscal 2023 that would gradually increase the eligibility ages for Social Security and Medicare, and change the Social Security benefit formula for people 54 and younger, while not changing it for people closer to receiving benefits.
Democrats are likely to oppose those changes, as well as any cuts to Social Security and Medicare, and an ensuing standoff could result in another government shutdown. The 2018-2019 lapse in federal funding lasted 35 days after a fight over former President Donald Trump’s border policies and immigration.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, warned last week that Republicans were “all but guaranteeing a shutdown” by demanding to cap spending at fiscal 2022 levels.
“These types of cuts would harm communities and families across the United States who are already struggling with inflation and the rising cost of living,” DeLauro said in a statement. “They put support for our Veterans, law enforcement, small businesses, and military families at risk.”
Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.