CBO Analysis Highlights Difficulty of GOP’s Balanced Budget Goal

CBO Analysis Highlights Difficulty of GOP’s Balanced Budget Goal

Reuters/Evelyn Hockstein

Although they are united in their opposition to President Joe Biden’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2024, House Republicans have yet to release their own version of next year’s budget. The timeline for doing so has reportedly slipped to later this spring as conservative lawmakers struggle to agree on a spending plan that would achieve their stated goal of balancing the budget within 10 years while avoiding cuts to essential programs including Social Security and Medicare.

In the absence of a solid GOP budget offering, Senate Budget Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked the Congressional Budget Office to take a look at how Congress might balance the budget under the general conditions set by Republicans. While considering different scenarios, CBO found that if lawmakers make no cuts in Social Security, Medicare, defense and veterans benefits, the rest of the discretionary budget would need to be reduced by 86% in order to achieve balance. Add in the Republican goal of extending the 2017 Trump tax cuts, which would reduce revenues relative to the current baseline, and the remaining discretionary spending would need to be eliminated entirely.

As Politico’s Caitlin Emma notes, the CBO report jibes with a recent analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget that found that “the path to get to balance within ten years is likely infeasible, and it is virtually impossible if major parts of the budget and tax code are exempt from change.”

“CBO found that the cuts to programs like health care, infrastructure, and public safety would be massive,” the senators said in a statement. “Moreover, it found that balancing the budget in 10 years would be mathematically impossible if Republicans kept Social Security, Medicare, defense, and veterans’ programs whole while also making permanent the Trump tax breaks for the very wealthy.”

Whitehouse said the CBO report casts serious doubt on the ability of Republicans to achieve their budgetary goals. “As this analysis shows, no amount of cuts can make their math add up,” he said. “It is a farce.”

The senators also warned that raising the debt ceiling could be far more difficult – and dangerous – if it gets caught up in impossible budget demands. “Today’s analysis from Congress’ own nonpartisan authority on the budget makes it clear: Republican promises not to cut Social Security or Medicare on their way to balancing the budget just don’t add up,” Wyden said. “These numbers show that Speaker McCarthy made impossible promises to land his job, and that’s seriously alarming with a catastrophic default getting closer every day.”