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Debt deal humiliation for House GOP


Debt deal humiliation for House GOP

May 31, 2023 | 3:30 am ET
By Chris Chappelear
Debt deal humiliation for House GOP
U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, speaks with reporters about the debt limit and government funding negotiations outside the Capitol building on Thursday, May 25, 2023. (Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

The debt limit deal that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have reached this past weekend is humiliating for Republicans.

In exchange for about $28 billion in unspent COVID relief funds that will be returned, spending being capped at a 1% increase from the current inflated levels for the next two years, and protecting all the subsidies in Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, the debt limit will be suspended past the 2024 elections. No set amount, just a set period – but the rumored amount of new debt this will add is an additional $4 trillion.

This is what Nebraska’s 2nd District Rep. Don Bacon calls a “win-win”?

On any objective metric, the Democrats won this fight. Speaker McCarthy and his moderate allies might be acting like it’s a win, but House Republicans completely folded in these negotiations.

What happened was that it all came down to the wire, with Democrats having some leverage and the business community freaking out behind the scenes. McCarthy raises money off all those Wall Street billionaires, and you don’t think that Jaime Dimond and all those other folks haven’t been calling and telling him to get this done and his people in line? With enough Democrats to go along, Speaker McCarthy can afford to ignore the right of wing of his party, shove this bad deal through Congress, and become a hero to the business community.

Initial analysis from the Congressional Budget Office says this deal will save $2.1 trillion if the proposed budget caps are left in place for six years. There’s a slight problem — those budget caps are only required for two years.

If House GOP leadership has to rig the CBO analysis, that’s another sign this deal isn’t a win for Republicans.

Russ Vought, former director of the Office of Budget Management under President Donald Trump and current president of the Center for Renewing America, stated that “The bill does NOT contain an ‘automatic continuing resolution’ as claimed. It has a 1% lowering of the two year caps IF a CR has been passed. Far from playing chess with the appropriators, this will actually incentivize omnibus bills.”

If the goal was to go through the ordinary appropriations process of passing 12 bills – and avoiding a single massive omnibus budget bill – then this deal fails brilliantly. We have all seen how much Congress loves to kick the can down the road and procrastinate. There is nothing to indicate that in the future Congress won’t pass an omnibus budget bill to avoid the lowered budget caps with continuing resolutions.

Even the work requirements for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) recipients just moves from age 50 to age 54. While they added work requirements for people from age 50 to age 54, work requirements are being eliminated for people who are homeless and who are veterans. Basically, it’s just shifting who’s eligible for these programs without work requirements. It’s questionable if that’s even a cut at a top-line level.

It all comes down to $4 trillion in new debt for a two-year spending freeze and no meaningful spending cuts. It really isn’t a bad deal, it’s just something Republicans could have gotten through the normal budget process anyway. This is why I contend  politicians trying to explain why this is a good deal are simply gaslighting the public.

Taken with all the drama and grandstanding from House Republicans, this deal is humiliating, and I believe that Nebraska’s federal delegation should vote no. As strange as it seems, I would rather Congress pass a clean debt limit bill than pretend that Speaker McCarthy’s deal is somehow a tremendous win for Republicans — because it’s not.