House Freedom Caucus Issues Demands in Debt Limit Fight

House Freedom Caucus Issues Demands in Debt Limit Fight


Members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus on Friday demanded steep spending cuts and a rollback of major portions of President Joe Biden’s agenda and insisted that their conditions be met before they will consider voting to raise the debt limit.

At a press conference at the U.S. Capitol, Freedom Caucus leaders said that they want to shrink Washington, D.C., and grow America. They railed against the federal government and what they called a “wasteful, woke and weaponized federal bureaucracy” and dismissed the $6.9 trillion budget plan released Thursday by President Joe Biden. Instead, the group, led by Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), called for setting federal spending at 2022 levels for a decade and reversing legislation enacted by Democrats.

“We can save over $3 trillion over the next decade by putting that spending for the federal bureaucracy back to pre-Covid levels,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX). “Now I ask you, who among us thinks that the size of government in 2019 was really small and efficient and effective?”

The Freedom Caucus demands include:

* Capping discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, meaning that spending would be cut by $131 billion for fiscal year 2024, and then keeping that cap in place and allowing just 1% annual growth for the rest of the 10-year budget window;

* Ending President Joe Biden’s $400 billion student debt cancellation plan, which is being reviewed by the Supreme Court;

* Rescinding all unobligated, unspent Covid-19 funding;

* “Recouping” the $80 billion in additional Internal Revenue Service funding over 10 years and hundreds of billions in climate funding provided by last year’s Inflation Reduction Act. Repealing the IRS funding would add to deficits, according to the Congressional Budget Office, as it would reduce tax collections;

* Imposing work requirements for various federal programs, reportedly including Medicaid.

The group, which reportedly consists of more than 40 House members, is not proposing cuts to defense spending and Perry told Roll Call that Medicare and Social Security benefits would not be cut and should not be part of debt limit negotiations.

To ensure that their demands don’t result in a government shutdown and “to force Congress to pass appropriations in a timely manner,” the group also proposed passing a pre-emptive stopgap extension of federal funding that would set non-defense discretionary spending at fiscal 2019 levels.

Perry called the plan responsible and realistic, but many lawmakers outside the Freedom Caucus will disagree, meaning that the conservatives’ demands threaten to further complicate what’s sure to be a tortuous path to increasing the federal borrowing limit and averting a calamitous, market-rattling default on U.S. debt.

“A senior moderate Republican in the House, who requested anonymity to speak freely about the party’s internal dynamics, described the conservatives’ ultimatum on Friday as unhelpful while talks continue among the GOP’s leaders and competing factions,” The Washington Post reported. And in an interview with MSNBC, Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, called the Freedom Caucus demands “extreme on steroids” and “dead on arrival. “

“Their list of demands reads more like a ransom note than a serious budget proposal,” he said.

Biden warned that the Freedom Caucus demands would mean cutting all discretionary spending other than defense by 25%. “Now, that means cops, firefighters. It means healthcare,” he said, adding that IRS agents would also be cut, leaving wealthy taxpayers facing less scrutiny. “I don't know. We just have a very different value set,” he said.

The bottom line: Between Biden’s budget release and these conservatives’ demands, this year’s fiscal fights may have only gotten more challenging this week. “I don't know what there’s much to negotiate on,” Biden told reporters on Friday, complaining that Republicans won’t have their budget ready for weeks.