House Republicans passed a debt ceiling increase bill Wednesday that ties an increase to federal government spending cuts. The bill has an uncertain path in the Senate, and President Joe Biden has said he will veto it.
On Wednesday, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the GOP has presented its plan, and he called on Biden to meet with him before the country defaults on its debts. All four of Utah’s congressmen voted in support of McCarthy’s bill.
“I just can’t hear one more time, ‘well, let’s just raise the debt ceiling and then let’s get to work on (reducing our debt),” Utah’s 1st District Rep. Blake Moore said on the House floor. “America has done this before and we are (once again) at an inflection point.”
The “Limit, Save, Grow Act,” passed 217 to 215 largely along party lines. It would pair federal budget cuts with a debt limit of $1.5 trillion or until the end of March 2024. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects the bill would produce budget cuts of $4.8 trillion over the next 10 years if enacted.
The GOP debt ceiling bill is not expected to get the approval of the Democrat-controlled Senate, and Tuesday the White House said Biden would veto it, limiting the chance moderate Democratic senators would support the bill.
“House Republicans must take default off the table and address the debt limit without demands and conditions,” a spokesperson for the White House said.
For months, Biden has called for a “clean” debt ceiling increase. However, McCarthy and many in the House GOP conference, including Utah’s 3rd District Rep. John Curtis, said “out-of-control spending” has contributed to the country’s historic debt and should be addressed together.
We can't get to the root of America's debt crisis without cutting off Washington's unlimited line of credit.— Rep. Burgess Owens (@RepBurgessOwens) April 26, 2023
The Limit, Save, Grow Act will LIMIT federal spending, SAVE taxpayer dollars, and GROW the economy.
President Biden needs to get serious and meet with @SpeakerMcCarthy. pic.twitter.com/t3ku7e9zeY
“We can’t get to the root of America’s debt crisis without cutting off Washington’s unlimited line of credit,” Utah’s 3rd District Rep. Burgess Owens told the Deseret News. “Unfortunately, President Biden isn’t listening to Sen. Biden, who voted to raise the debt limit with significant deficit reduction measures attached in 1985, 1987, 1993 and 1997.”
House Democrats opposed the bill, accusing Republicans of being more interested in political moves to appease their supporters rather than paying the nation’s debts.
Rep. Peter Aguilar, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus said, “(Republicans) have put forward this proposal that wants to take away health care from people, take away food from working families in this country and cut veteran benefits. It’s unacceptable.”
What’s in the bill?
The bill is largely understood to be a tool crafted to bring Biden to the negotiation table. In addition to raising the debt ceiling it would cut spending through a number of federal appropriation rules.
The 320-page bill proposes cuts to discretionary spending and returns funding levels for federal agencies to 2022 levels while limiting budget growth to 1% per year.
The legislation package seeks to cut federal spending by blocking Biden’s promise to forgive student loans up to $20,000, and repeals measures in the Inflation Reduction Act passed last year to fund green energy tax cuts and $80 billion in additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service.
The bill would also rescind unused COVID-19 pandemic funds, estimated to be between $90 billion and $120 billion. The unallocated funds include grants to union pension funds, transit infrastructure and other projects.
Republicans also added a legislative rider in the bill that would strengthen work requirements for those receiving assistance through Medicaid or food stamps. Democrats opposed these measures, arguing on the House floor that the measures would hurt American families.
GOP House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise said the Republican plan will strengthen the fiscal health of Social Security.
“By putting these basic work requirements back in place, millions of people that are sitting on the sidelines will finally get back in to the work place, and pay into Social Security and Medicare,” Scalise said on the House floor. “That will add tens of billons of dollars to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.”
Utah’s 2nd District Rep. Chris Stewart told the Deseret News he was supporting the bill because he believes a recent “explosion of government spending” is the major driver of the record inflation afflicting the nation.
“It’s entirely caused by government and we have to address this problem,” he said. Stewart called on Biden to sit down with McCarthy and work out a deal before it is too late.
The U.S. Treasury said the country hit its existing debt ceiling in January and informed Congress that through “extraordinary measures” it could make the country’s debt payments until early June.
If Congress and the White House don’t agree on a debt limit increase in time, the federal government risks defaulting on its debt for the first time.