HRepublicans are pushing for a sharp cut in spending in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling, but the party has yet to come up with a specific request to present to the White House.
The Treasury Department has warned that it may not be able to pay all the government’s bills until early June after the United States reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit last Thursday. The deadline gives House Republicans leverage in their nascent negotiations with Democrats, who control the Senate and the White House.
But Republicans are also in the difficult position of deciding where to cut spending. A blanket cut is a nonstarter for defense hawks, and Democrats are already using the specter of budget cuts to argue that Republicans want to hurt popular programs.
“Will Republicans hold Social Security hostage in exchange for the debt ceiling? Or pay raises for our troops? Or support for veterans? Or funding for police, fire and first responders?” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asked in a speech Tuesday. “Republicans, Ten Answers to the American People About What You Mean by Spending Cuts.”
What is known is that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) agreed to roll back spending to fiscal 2022 levels next year as a concession to hardliners in his party, which amounts to a cut of 130 billion dollars. He has also agreed to present a balanced budget in 10 years.
McCarthy will soon meet with Joe Biden for their first meeting on the debt ceiling, which is expected to happen sometime before the president’s State of the Union address next month.
Senate conservatives, while speaking in broad strokes, gave their two cents on what reforms should be made during a news conference Wednesday.
“Republicans must give up the sacred cow that says we will never touch a dollar from the military,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), joining a group of other Republican senators calling for fiscal responsibility . “Everything should be looked at cross-sectionally. No one has a sacred area that would be welcome.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) looks on during a press conference on the debt ceiling, Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023. The U.S. reaches its debt ceiling, currently at $31.4 trillion, on Jan. 19 .
SENATE REPUBLICANS HERE IN THE DEBT CEILING FIGHT
The group, known as the “Breakfast Club,” floated broad ideas like a balanced budget amendment. Paul and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) mentioned legal limits on discretionary spending in the coming years as part of a debt ceiling deal.
But they made it clear that the fight over the debt limit belongs to the Republican-led House.
“Exactly what they are, we’re not ready to spell it out today. We’ll do that in consultation with the House,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said when asked what specifically Senate conservatives want to eliminate in the budget .
Schumer reiterated his call to Republicans to be specific in a press conference held minutes earlier.
“Until President McCarthy has a plan that can be passed in the House with his Republican support, going to the White House is like going without letters in hand,” he said Wednesday. “What is your plan? They haven’t proven it. They have an obligation to show that on something as serious as the debt ceiling.”
Conservative Republicans in the House, such as Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX) and Andy Harris (R-MD), have denied that Republicans want to cut defense, while McCarthy has indicated some openness to defense cuts to roll back the so-called awakened priorities in the military.
“We can spend at defense spending levels for the ’23 omnibus. We can go back to pre-Covid spending levels for the rest of the bureaucratic state, and you can get to better levels than ’22,” he Roy told reporters Wednesday.
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) said defense cuts must be “on the table.”
Senate conservatives said they are willing to offer support to House Republicans, who will be in the driver’s seat negotiating a plan to raise the debt limit.
“They have a big task ahead of them,” Johnson said. “We want to do everything we can to support their efforts, but also encourage them because the crucial aspect of what they have to do is they have to pass these things with Republican votes.”
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Senators admit that crafting a plan that can garner overwhelming support from the conference will not be an easy task.
“It’s obviously a critical first step because it’s not going to come from this chamber,” Braun told reporters Wednesday. “I think it will be difficult.”