Democrats are ramping up attacks on Republicans over proposed spending cuts, pulling out the stops to frame the GOP as the party of “draconian cuts.”
As budget season kicks off around Capitol Hill, Democrats are getting a head start sharpening their knives, leaning on numbers to bolster their case against GOP-backed proposals and seeking to drive home for voters what those cuts could mean for popular programs.
House Republicans have yet to unveil the conference’s official budget proposal, but Democrats have been using proposals by conservative caucuses within the GOP — as well as the call by some conservatives to cap discretionary funding for fiscal 2024 at 2022 levels — as early foils.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the top Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government, on Tuesday said the proposed caps “would have dire consequences for the American people.”
“For example, 125,000 fewer small businesses would have access to Small Business Administration programs that provide free business consulting,” he added in a statement. “Similarly, cuts to the Internal Revenue Service would make it easier for the wealthiest individuals and corporations to commit tax fraud and evasion, and make it harder for American taxpayers to receive quality customer service.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of the Appropriations Committee, on Monday released letters from nearly 20 federal agencies outlining what the proposed cuts would mean for their offices and the services they provide Americans.
She also laid into Republicans, saying the pitch could lead to thousands losing access to childcare and Head Start, a program for low-income families with preschool-age kids.
“Democrats are working to lower costs, boost the economy, and help people access higher-paying jobs,” DeLauro said in the statement. “House Republicans want to impose devastating cuts that make everything from child care to college more expensive.”
The potential impacts cited in the letters ranged from a reduction of more than 5,000 employees that help process retirement claims for the Social Security Administration to thousands losing out on women, infant and children benefits and housing choice vouchers, and a host of other potential cuts.
The analyses from federal agencies are the latest addition to Democrats’ tool kit as they work to underline what they say is at stake for various agencies and popular social programs as Republicans float using budget ceiling negotiations to secure fiscal reforms.
In a matter of months, the divided Congress will have to come to some type of bipartisan compromise on how to raise the debt limit or risk a national default. While members on both sides agree they’ll have to work together to lift the ceiling, there is plenty of daylight between them on how to get there.
Democrats have pressed for the limit to be raised without conditions, arguing spending negotiations should be carried out separately from debt ceiling talks. But Republicans say they should go hand in hand, pointing to the national debt, which is teetering around the $31.4 trillion mark. They also point to projections from Congress’s chief nonpartisan scorekeeper that show the nation’s debt growing by another $20 trillion in the next 10 years.
“The politics behind it say we can agree to disagree on our vision and our plans and our strategies to bend the curve to put us on a sustainable path and to save the country from a debt crisis,” House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas) said earlier this month. “But what we can’t do is disagree on the math.”
Republican leadership has ruled out any increases in taxes on Americans in the ten-year budget window – a sharp contrast from the measures proposed in President Biden’s recent budget request, which aims to tackle deficit reduction on the revenue side with tax hikes targeting wealthy individuals and corporations.
“This is a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” House GOP leaders countered this month. “Yet President Biden’s unserious budget proposal includes trillions in new taxes that families will pay directly or through higher costs.”
GOP leaders have also vowed that cuts to entitlement programs will be off the table in debt limit talks and sought to downplay concerns about massive cuts to the Pentagon’s budget amid concerns from defense hawks.
Democrats have also sought to poke preemptive holes in those promises, pointing to Republicans’ goal of a balanced budget in 10 years.
Last week, Senate Democrats championed another analysis they requested from the Congressional Budget Office that they said proved it was mathematically impossible to balance the federal budget in that time frame without changes to funding for defense and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The report found that, even with those items on the table, all noninterest outlays would have to be “gradually reduced starting in 2024 so that they were 29 percent less than the amount in the agency’s baseline projections in 2033.”
That percentage rises to 86 percent if lawmakers want to exclude defense discretionary programs, Social Security, Medicare and mandatory veterans’ programs from the chopping block.
“As this analysis shows, no amount of cuts can make their math add up,” Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said upon its release. “It is a farce.”
The war of numbers is likely to heat up as Congress braces for budget season, with the newly GOP-led House Budget Committee preparing to question White House budget chief Shalanda Young later this week on Biden’s fiscal 2024 budget for the first time.
House and Senate appropriators have also scheduled hearings for this week and the following on the president’s budget, and some Democrats have already expressed eagerness to make the case against Republican-backed cuts.
In a statement on Monday, DeLauro said she looks forward to discussing the recent letters from agency leaders in committee hearings in the weeks ahead, with hopes of getting Americans and Congress to “understand the real cost to human lives these extreme cuts would have.”