I guarantee you that Rep. Steve Scalise, the new majority leader of the House, does not have such a tenuous grasp on how the government works that he truly believes this. He’s a liar.
He knows very well what the debt ceiling is and what breaching it could do to the national and global economy. He’s blatantly lying to justify what the Republicans plan to do to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid when it comes time to negotiate lifting the debt ceiling. He also likely knows just how unpopular those demands are going to be, because this is old news. They promised this way back in October before the midterm elections. That might be part of why they just squeaked out a majority that’s so slim, it can flip back to Democrats on any given day.
So he’s flat-out lying to America about why it’s justified. They have around six months to keep repeating these lies because that’s when the debt limit will probably be reached, and now the tiny GOP majority has etched in the rules they just passed that they will have this fight.
This is a slide from the PowerPoint presentation in the Republican conference meeting Tuesday:
It’s not easy to read, but that last bullet says: “Will not agree to Debt Limit increases without budget agreement or commensurate fiscal reforms.” Meaning accept their demands to start cutting these programs. Note that Republicans are savvy enough about how unpopular those cuts are because they keep insisting that they aren’t going to hurt anyone on the programs now. “What we’ve been very clear about is we’re not going to touch the benefits that are going to people relying on the benefits of Social Security and Medicare,” promised Rep. Chip Roy, one of the people extorting things out of Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in exchange for his help in securing the speaker’s gavel.
No, they want to start slashing future benefits, ensuring the programs end in the near future. The Republicans are also operating under a new balanced budget rule based on a blueprint drafted by Trump’s former budget director, Russ Vought. His plan imposes about $1 trillion in cuts to to Medicare payments to providers, which would most definitely harm people on Medicare now.
Further proof that social insurance programs are on the chopping block are in that same slide—the bullet just above the debt limit one. “Reject any negotiations with Senate unless their Apropos Bills are passed, complies with House Budget Rules, and reduce non-defense discretionary.”
One, the idea that they can force the Senate to comply with House Budget Rules is utterly bonkers. But two, they’re dictating that defense spending can’t be reduced, so it all has to come from other programs, like food stamps and child nutrition, student loans, disability insurance, and more. That’s because the only sign of revolt from regular Republicans to their new maniac overlords has been when defense spending is threatened.
“I’m all for a balanced budget, but we’re not going to do it on the backs of our troops and our military,” Rep. Michael Waltz said Monday on Fox Business. “If we really want to talk about the debt and spending, it’s the entitlements programs.” That’s not at all subtle.
By the way, there is still a Senate and the top appropriators there have something to say about all of this as well. Sens. Patty Murray and Susan Collins issued a joint statement Tuesday telling the House maniacs, nicely, to pound sand. “There are so many pressing challenges are nation faces right now—both here at home and abroad—and it is our responsibility as member of Congress to do the hard work to listen to one another, find common ground, and then reach sensible solutions that help American people,” they wrote.
“This starts with funding the government in a responsible and bipartisan manner—that means making up our appropriations bills and bringing them to the floor in a timely way.” Not on the maniacs’ schedule.
In the meantime, the White House should be planning on how they’ll make the debt ceiling fight go away since they didn’t get that accomplished in the lame duck Congress last year.