Democratic lawmakers and policy analysts are expressing growing alarm over the House GOP’s pursuit of increasingly severe spending cuts that would decimate education programs, slash housing assistance and food aid for low-income families, undermine clean air and water safety, and compromise medical research.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, called the Republican proposals “unbelievably cruel” and accused the GOP of “playing political games on the backs of the most vulnerable, working people, families just trying to get by.”
House Republicans’ push for sharp cuts that would be dead on arrival in the narrowly Democratic Senate has all but guaranteed a government shutdown come midnight Saturday.
After failing twice last week to approve a rule that would have advanced a Pentagon spending measure, House Republicans on Tuesday voted to open debate on a package of appropriations bills for the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State, and Agriculture—just four out of the 12 measures that must be approved to fully fund the federal government.
In floor remarks ahead of Tuesday’s vote, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)—the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee—warned that the GOP’s agriculture appropriations bill “shamefully” cuts aid “for the most vulnerable children and families.”
“This bill abandons the most vulnerable among us by slashing the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program by $800 million. Some 4.6 million women and children would also get severely reduced food and vegetable vouchers,” said DeLauro.
“I do not believe we should practice this so-called ‘fiscal responsibility’ by taking food out of the mouths of moms and of children,” she added. “Is this how Republicans seek to sell their spending cuts to the American people? By taking food from veterans and the most vulnerable?”
DeLauro also pointed to a rider in the GOP legislation that would reverse the Food and Drug Administration’s decision earlier this year to allow the abortion pill mifepristone to be dispensed at certain pharmacies.
The House Republican Ag bill simultaneously restricts abortion access and cuts nutrition assistance from poor newborns. Deeply cruel policy. https://t.co/netpH7Fu7u— Bobby Kogan (@BBKogan) September 27, 2023
As The Washington Post‘s Jeff Stein reported Tuesday, House Republican leaders are aiming to cut discretionary federal spending by around 27%, ditching spending levels that they agreed to as part of a bipartisan debt ceiling agreement reached earlier this year.
The floated 27% cut, Stein observed, “appears to translate into taking more than $150 billion per year out of the part of the budget that funds childcare, education subsidies, medical research, and hundreds of additional federal operations.”
Citing estimates from the Center for American Progress (CAP), Stein noted that the GOP’s current appropriations bills would cut housing subsidies for the poor by 33%, force “more than 1 million women and children onto the waitlist of a nutritional assistance program for poor mothers with young children,” and slash home heating assistance for low-income families by more than 70%.
CAP also estimated in a recent analysis that the House GOP’s proposed appropriations measures would inflict a staggering 80% cut on Title I education grants for elementary and secondary schools in low-income areas.
Additionally, according to CAP, Republicans’ bills would cut Social Security Administration funding by $183 million, slash $2.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health’s budget, and curb Environmental Protection Agency funding by 39%.
“Back in May, Speaker Kevin McCarthy made a bipartisan debt ceiling deal with deep cuts and policies that hurt everyday people but with a promise to the American people that no further cuts would harm them,” Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) said in a statement Tuesday.
“Today,” Ramirez continued, “Speaker McCarthy’s hunger for power and lack of leadership are leading him to back out of that deal and further cave into far-right Republicans’ irrational demands to cut more than $150 billion per year for childcare, education, medical research, and hundreds of other federal critical programs that feed families, provide safe housing, and protect our environment. These are unacceptable demands that I WILL NOT support.”
“The same party who provided $2 trillion tax giveaways to the wealthy wants to slash funding for WIC, devastating women and children.”
The Senate, meanwhile, voted Tuesday to begin debate on a continuing resolution that would fund the government through November 17, a short-term solution as both chambers work on passing their appropriations bills for the coming fiscal year.
“A shutdown would be nothing short of a catastrophe for American families, our national security, and our economy,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “It is critical that we avoid one, and that’s exactly what this bipartisan legislation will do.”
But a number of House Republicans, including members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, have signaled that they are opposed to any short-term government funding bill. Earlier this month, the House GOP put forth a 30-day stopgap funding measure that would have cut nonmilitary discretionary spending by 8% instead of keeping the government funded at current levels.
The House Republican leadership ultimately pulled the bill after it became clear it did not have the votes to pass.
“The House GOP doesn’t serve working families,” Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) wrote on social media Tuesday. “The same party who provided $2 trillion tax giveaways to the wealthy wants to slash funding for WIC, devastating women and children who depend on this program to receive fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The Biden White House warned Wednesday that in addition to threatening food aid for millions of mothers and children, a government shutdown “would have damaging impacts across the country—including risking significant delays for travelers and forcing air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Officers to work without pay.”
“During an Extreme Republican Shutdown, more than 13,000 air traffic controllers and 50,000 Transportation Security Officers—in addition to thousands of other Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel—would have to show up to do their critical jobs without getting paid until funding becomes available,” the White House said. “In previous shutdowns, this led to significant delays and longer wait times for travelers at airports across the country.”