Congressional conservatives gird for battle with Biden over debt ceiling and spending

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House Freedom Caucus members talk to reporters about the federal debt limit during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 22, 2023 in Washington, DC. The conservative Republicans were critical of President Joe Biden’s federal budget proposal and repeated their slogan, “shrink Washington and grow America,” while demanding that spending cuts go hand-in-hand with raising the debt limit. (Graeme Jennings / Washington Examiner)

Congressional conservatives gird for battle with Biden over debt ceiling and spending

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House Freedom Caucus members and “Breakfast Club” senators held a rare joint news conference, chomping at the bit to start budget and debt limit work with President Joe Biden, with the deadline to raise the nation’s borrowing limit looming.

“We’re ready to go right now,” Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), the House Freedom Caucus chairman, said during the press conference. “If the president wants to solve this, we’re all here.”

FREEDOM CAUCUS REVEALS LIST OF DEMANDS IN DEBT CEILING FIGHT AFTER BIDEN BUDGET RELEASED

The group recently released a blueprint for budget cuts as a condition for a vote to raise the debt limit. The exhaustive list of demands includes measures that would cut current spending and place a cap on future spending. It would also rescind unspent COVID-19 funds, end student loan bailout programs, and repeal increased funding for the Internal Revenue Service that was part of President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act.

“All we are saying is, ‘Hey, let’s check under the couch cushions, maybe. Let’s see if we can find some money hanging around somewhere that doesn’t need to be spent on some wants and put it toward some actual needs of the federal government,’” said Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX).

The White House called the House Freedom Caucus’s budget proposal a “five-alarm fire,” arguing that its spending cuts would endanger the safety of the public. The Biden administration claims the proposal endangers public safety, raises costs for families, weakens national security, and hurts seniors. Democrats are also utilizing Congressional Budget Office analysis to argue that the Republican push for a balanced budget would impose devastating cuts to important federal programs.

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“To the press secretary over at the White House, who said our plan is to create a five-alarm fire, you’re lying,” said Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL). “I wish he would just take an economics course because spending money the way Joe Biden wants to, that is the five-alarm fire.”

A House budget resolution is expected to be delayed in order to allow for negotiations between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) on a debt limit increase in exchange for spending cuts, according to Roll Call. Biden continues to say he won’t negotiate conditions to raise the debt limit.

McCarthy and Biden met initially in February and agreed to keep the lines of communication open, but no further meetings have been scheduled. “Show us your plan” has become a rallying cry from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as he and other Democrats raise the specter of cuts to food stamps, Medicaid, and other federal programs. Schumer has even goaded Republicans by questioning whether the GOP wants to cut funding to veterans and first responders.

Lawmakers still have a couple months to work out a deal. The Congressional Budget Office estimates they have between June and September to find a resolution before the nation defaults on its bills.

“We need to stop getting into a position where they can hold us up to force us to pass an omnibus, or say they’re going to shut down everything. That’s wrong,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). “What the Freedom Caucus proposed is to stop this whole process where they hold this up and then get more and more spending.”

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The looming debate will likely be one of McCarthy’s most difficult challenges as speaker as he attempts to negotiate with Biden without upsetting his right flank. After the chaos of the speaker’s election, members of the caucus are standing firm on their demands, firing a warning shot at the Biden administration.

“I’d like to remind Mr. Biden that America saw what the House Freedom Caucus is made of in January,” said Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). “Lies don’t move us. Media coverage doesn’t move us. Attack ads don’t move us. Policy moves us.”

As the deadline draws closer, Senate Republicans are making it clear a plan to raise the debt ceiling must originate in the House, leaving negotiations to McCarthy.

“What Senate Republicans are doing, we’re supporting our counterparts in the House of Representatives and leadership and their efforts to negotiate a deal with the White House. I can’t speak to the current progress of that,” said Sen. John Thune (R-SD), the No. 2 Republican in the Senate during a press conference on Wednesday. “Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of pressure in order to get people to the table.”

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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