Analysis | The budget battles ahead

Analysis | The budget battles ahead


Good morning, Early Birds. Our thoughts are with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 81, who tripped and fell at a Washington hotel on Wednesday night. He has been admitted to the hospital and is receiving treatment, spokesman David Popp said. Tips: [email protected]. Thanks for waking up with us.

Reading this online? Sign up for The Early 202 to get scoops and sharp political analysis in your inbox each morning.

In today’s edition … A new task force on House committees off to rough start … A taste of what’s ahead in the House Afghanistan investigation … The unlikely pairing of J.D. Vance and Sherrod Brown … but first …

Biden’s budget kicks off a high-stakes spending battle

President Biden will unveil his budget this afternoon in Philadelphia, kicking off a fight over government spending and tax rates that is likely to consume much of the year.

The White House estimates Biden’s budget would cut the deficit by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years through savings and tax hikes such as raising Medicare taxes on households earning more than $400,000, creating a new minimum tax on billionaires and raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent, according to a White House official.

There’s no chance Congress will enact anything resembling Biden’s proposals while Republicans control the House. 

But the document is an opening play in the expected budget negotiations later this year. That could play out as part of Republicans’ threat to allow a potential debt default unless Democrats agree to spending cuts or as a separate process.

While this fiscal fight has barely begun, some of its contours have begun to emerge. 

Here’s a look at three areas we’re keeping a close eye on.

The ‘woke’ budget battle

Republicans’ demands for spending cuts in some ways echo the ones they made during the Obama administration, when fiscal conflicts brought the federal government to the brink of default and resulted in the downgrade of the country’s credit rating.

But this time around, some Republicans want to make their case in the language of the culture wars rather than that of fiscal restraint.

“We don’t think you should approach spending fights any longer just on affordability,” said Russ Vought, who served as director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration and is now an influential adviser to Republican lawmakers on budget matters.

Vought, who leads a pro-Trump think tank called the Center for Renewing America, wants Republicans to make the case for cutting federal agencies as a way to combat what he described as the federal government’s “woke” bureaucracy in addition to the traditional Republican message of spending restraint.

  • “I’d rather these dollars be burned in the parking lot than go in foreign aid and screw up our foreign policy with other countries because we’re funding gay-pride events in Prague,” he added, referring to the U.S. embassy’s support for the pride parade in the Czech capital.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), one of the lawmakers who blocked Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) from the speakership for days last month in an effort to convince him to take a harder line on spending, said focusing on “woke” programs and cutting spending goes “hand in hand.”

  • “We know what we want to do,” Roy said. “We want to return the bureaucratic state to pre-covid [spending] levels. That’s it.”

Medicaid and food stamps are on the table

Democrats won an early victory in the emerging budget battles when they pressured Republicans into taking Medicare and Social Security cuts off the table. 

But the White House effort to get Republicans to back down on cuts to Medicaid, food stamps and Obamacare has not yielded the same result.

“We need to go back to the Clinton-era welfare-to-work reforms,” House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Tex.) told our colleague Tony Romm in a recent interview regarding food stamps.

The Center for Renewing America’s budget plan calls for scrapping the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, which the think tank claims would save $1.1 trillion over 10 years. While Medicaid budget experts say such changes would lead to millions of Americans lose health care coverage, some Republicans want to return the program to its original mission of serving the most in need.

Democrats see that as a hard sell.

“There are people who believe that Medicaid is easier politically to deal with that Medicare and Social Security,” said former Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), who until leaving office in January was chairman of the House Budget Committee. “I don’t think that’s true.”

Both parties seem to believe they have a winning hand in a debate over social safety net programs other than Medicare and Social Security.

  • Democrats contend such cuts would deal a cruel blow to Americans who rely on the programs, while Republicans counter that adding policies like work requirements to some programs is a common sense proposal with political appeal.

Republicans don’t plan to release their own budget proposal until next month, a timeline that is likely to slip as Republicans struggle to come to agreement. But it does give them time to attack the higher taxes in Biden’s plan without advancing their own. Democrats, meanwhile, are banking on McCarthy failing to unify House Republicans around a package of budget cuts, leading the conference to descend into infighting that will turn off voters.

Of course, Democrats at times have fallen into disarray themselves on fiscal matters, such as when they struggled to unite around tax hikes to help pay for much of Biden’s domestic agenda during the first two years of his term.

But so far Democrats say they don’t see a political problem with Biden’s proposals.

“The president’s been clear that individuals making less than $400,000 aren’t going to be impacted by his fiscal plans,” Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the No. 3 House Democrat, told The Early on Wednesday evening. “I think what’s more important is we need a trajectory that puts us on a sustainable path and helps our communities. And one of the ways that the president may propose we deal with this is by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”

A new task force on House committees off to rough start

The new bipartisan task force to set clear parameters for when a House member can be removed from a committee held its first meeting on Wednesday, but the Democrats didn’t show. 

Rep. Nancy Mace (S.C.), the top Republican on the task force, said she scheduled the meeting but the four Democrats didn’t appear. It’s unclear why the Democrats didn’t show, but the meeting was at the same time that the CBO director was giving a briefing on the budget. 

McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) created the task force last month as a sort of a truce after Republicans removed three Democrats from their committees — retribution for Democrats removing two Republicans from their committees in the previous Congress. 

Mace said she and the other three Republicans on the task force met anyway and discussed new guidelines. She said she’s going to schedule another meeting and hopes the Democrats participate. 

“It’s really important to me to do this in a nonpartisan way,” Mace said. 

A taste of what’s ahead in the House Afghanistan investigation

Wednesday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing — the first of a series to scrutinize the fall of Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban — set the tone for what’s likely to come: 

  • Republicans loudly blamed the Biden administration for the chaotic withdrawal and Democrats acknowledged Americans’ and Afghans’ concerns while supporting legislation that would give Afghan refugees green cards.

While House Republican inquiries focused on the origins of covid, Hunter Biden, the Justice Department and border security have garnered most of the attention so far, the examination of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could be the most uncomfortable one for Biden and Democrats.

As our colleagues Yasmeen Abutaleb and Dan Lamothe reported in December, administration officials view the withdrawal as a legitimate area of inquiry but one they aren’t eager to relive.

  • “From the moment the events of August 2021 happened, there was a knowledge at the moment that investigations would happen … because it got so much public scrutiny,” one former White House official told Yasmeen and Dan. “It’s also an issue where they look back to 2021, and the point at which the president’s approval rating dropped was around Afghanistan, so it brings back the worst moment.”

The White House is also making clear it’s not going sit back and allow Republicans to place all the blame on Biden for pulling the plug on a military conflict many members in both parties were eager to end.

“Instead of returning the U.S. to active combat with the Taliban and putting even more of our troops’ lives at risk, President Biden made the tough decision to finally end the 20-year war in Afghanistan,” White House spokesman Ian Sams said in a statement to The Early. “As a result, we are no longer losing American lives and spending tens of billions of dollars a year fighting a war with no end in sight, putting the U.S. in a stronger position to lead the world and address the challenges of the future.”

The unlikely pairing: J.D. Vance, Sherrod Brown

Strange bedfellows: Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) landed in the Senate just a few months ago after campaigning as a MAGA brawler. But on Tuesday afternoon, he stood in front of his new Republican colleagues and tried to convince them to support a bill backed by Senate Democrats that would impose a host of new regulations on a powerful industry,” our colleague Liz Goodwin writes. “Vance’s co-workers were polite, but delivered a clear message in response: Slow down.”

  • “The derailment of a Norfolk Southern train carrying hazardous materials in Vance’s state has spurred the freshman senator into a surprising alliance with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), an at-times fiery populist liberal who is facing a tough reelection battle in the red state in 2024.”
  • “Vance and Brown have joined in on sharp questioning of Norfolk Southern and the federal government’s response to the disaster in joint letters, introduced comprehensive rail safety legislation, and are appearing alongside each other to testify at a hearing that also features the train company’s CEO on Thursday.”
  • “The bipartisan alliance has drawn praise from locals heartened to see lawmakers putting aside their differences in the wake of an emergency, and Vance said last week that he was also pleasantly surprised that the environment in Washington wasn’t too partisan to make any action impossible.”

For International Women’s Day, our colleagues asked illustrators to show them what having a community of women meant to them. Here’s what Yulia Vus, who is from Ukraine, drew:

Thanks for reading. You can also follow us on Twitter: @theodoricmeyer and @LACaldwellDC.

Source link

Scroll to Top