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The Big Deal With Trying to Cut Spending in a Debt Ceiling Bill

WASHINGTON — House Republicans are pushing Democrats to pass a debt ceiling bill that limits the amount of money Congress is allowed to spend next year.

But achieving that goal — and holding it together — would require breaking a deadlock between the two sides that has persisted for more than a decade: how to allocate spending between military and national priorities.

Republicans want higher defense spending and Democrats want more money for non-defense programs like health care, education and veterans aid. In recent years, both parties have entered into a detente: just increase both, and everyone wins.

Now House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and his conservative allies want to break that pact, arguing that spending is out of control. But cutting national funding without touching the military, as many Republicans want, will not sit well with Democrats.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla, chairman of the powerful rules committee, said defense spending should be spared because “it’s a very dangerous world right now.”

“Look, I think threats drive defense spending. Domestic priorities are wants and desires, but you don’t necessarily get everything. Defense is, for me, a very different level of commitment,” he said.

Democrats have made it clear they want equal treatment between the two.

“There is some parity between defense spending and non-defense spending,” said Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md. “And this is an issue that is important in our caucus.”

Ahead of an expected meeting between President Joe Biden and congressional leaders this week, Republican lawmakers have said agreement on ‘spending caps’ is important to gain their support to avoid a default. dangerous payment.

The debt ceiling bill passed by the House would reduce federal spending to fiscal year 2022 levels, forcing those responsible for allocating public funds to cut $131 billion from what Congress currently spending.

Achieving this without cutting defense funding would require a steep 17% reduction in discretionary non-defence spending.

“Democrats will not let nondefense take a disproportionate share of deep cuts. So Republicans will have to tone down their demands for cuts if they want to spare the defense,” said Brian Reidl, a former Senate Republican political aide who now works at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative public policy think tank.

Reidl said they might be able to avoid the dispute by freezing spending rather than making cuts, suggesting “a two-year freeze” on federal spending as a possible endgame.

Republicans avoided specifying what they would cut, other than suggesting they could avoid cutting military spending. When the White House argued that the House GOP’s debt ceiling bill — with its lack of specifics on spending cuts — would mean damaging cuts to veterans’ funding in the non-defense portion of the budget , GOP leaders insisted they could also spare veterans cuts.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., called the bill the “Default on America Act” and insisted that the debt limit and government funding be handled independently.

“It’s too important for tightrope strategy and reckless ultimatums,” Schumer wrote in a letter Friday. “White House staff, as well as aides in my office, the president’s office, Chief McConnell’s office, and Chief Jeffries’ office will continue to meet in an attempt to find a constructive way forward.”

McConnell is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. ; Jeffries is House Majority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y.

Liam Donovan, a Republican lobbyist who analyzes legislative dynamics, said the two sides could agree to impose a spending cap for just one year. They could also agree on political goals without announcing an exact number of expenditures. He suggested they could link cuts to policies seen as generating “savings” and “growth”.

“Once you agree on the political parameters, it becomes much simpler – an agreement on major expenses for at least a year, savings on unused Covid funds, a commitment to work on the authorization [reform] or other growth-oriented areas of mutual interest,” Donovan said.


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