The White House on Monday launched what it says will be a week-long offensive slamming Republicans over what it calls a “draconian” budget plan proposed by the right-wing House Freedom Caucus.
House Republicans led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy have yet to roll out their official budget plan. Their blueprint has been delayed as the party reportedly struggles to find consensus on proposals to cut spending. But the White House is honing in on budget demands released this month by the House Freedom Caucus, which in part called for capping discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, requiring more than $130 billion in spending cuts, and then allowing spending to rise by just 1% a year.
President Joe Biden this month announced his own budget proposal, which calls for increased spending and nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction over a decade, paid for by higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations. The White House argues that while Biden’s budget would lower costs for American households, the Freedom Caucus proposal would represent a “five alarm fire for families.”
“The extreme MAGA Republican House Freedom Caucus has made their priorities clear: imposing devastating cuts to public safety and increasing costs for working- and middle-class families, all to protect and extend tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and big corporations,” the White House said Monday. “Combined with other commitments extreme MAGA House Republicans have already made, the extreme Freedom Caucus proposal will be a disaster for families in at least five key ways: endangering public safety, raising costs for families, shipping manufacturing jobs overseas and undermining American workers, weakening national security, and hurting seniors.”
The White House is planning to focus on one of those areas each day this week, starting with crime and public safety today. The White House says the Freedom Caucus proposal would endanger public safety by eliminating funding for 11,000 FBI personnel and more than 2,000 Customs and Border Protection agents and officers while reducing support for local law enforcement agencies. Democrats also say that the Freedom Caucus plan would shut down 125 air traffic control towers across the country, undermining safety at a third of U.S. airports, and led to 11,000 fewer rail safety inspections.
Those administration attacks are based on analyses by federal agencies and the White House Office of Management and Budget estimating how a GOP proposal to cut spending back to fiscal year 2022 levels would affect various government programs. McCarthy reportedly agreed to such a plan in negotiations with holdout conservatives during his bid to become speaker. McCarthy and others in the party have since pledged to spare Social Security and Medicare as they push for concessions from the White House in exchange for raising the federal borrowing limit. Defense hawks in the GOP have also insisted that military spending not be cut.
With Republicans insisting on dramatic spending cuts, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, requested in January that agency heads analyze how the GOP proposal could affect their programs. On Monday, she released the responses she received from 20 departments and agencies — you can find them here — and said that the letters show that the proposed cuts “would cause irreparable damage to our communities by gutting the programs every single American relies on.” DeLauro called the proposed spending cuts “unrealistic, unsustainable, and unconscionable.”
Among the other potential effects of spending cuts, according to Biden administration estimates highlighted by DeLauro:
- 640,000 families would lose access to rental assistance and more than 430,000 low-income families would be evicted from Section 8 housing;
- 1.2 million women, infants and children would lose the special nutrition assistance they receive;
- 200,000 children would lose access to Head Start, and 100,000 children would lose access to child care;
- Meals on Wheels would be cut for 1 million seniors.
House Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-PA) dismissed the White House attacks as "smear and fear" in an interview with Fox News. "Somebody has to be reasonable here and talk about reining in this federal spending. And if it's not going to be the president, the Freedom Caucus is happy to do it," he said.
What’s next: The White House will keep hammering Republicans. McCarthy, meanwhile, complained on Sunday that President Joe Biden has not yet followed up on their last meeting over the debt limit. “I just saw the President on St. Patrick's Day, Friday,” the speaker told reporters. “I sat down with him and said, you said we'd meet again. Every day that passes, you put the economy in jeopardy. He just has to tell me when I can come. I'm sitting around waiting.” McCarthy emphasized that Republicans won’t raise taxes and won’t pass an increase in the debt limit without strings attached. “But everything else is up for negotiation," he said.
The White House reportedly has countered that any further discussions can’t start until House Republicans have produced a budget. In the meantime, a number of administration officials will go before Congress this week to testify about the president’s budget.