Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Two weeks ago, the House Freedom Caucus released the terms under which its members would back increasing the debt ceiling. Wednesday, the White House responded by labeling the proposal the kindling for a “five-alarm fire.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the nature of politics, one can easily get the impression that the Biden administration and Freedom Caucus were looking at different documents.
The caucus’ original proposal, which came with the label “Shrink Washington, Grow America,” was by no means timid. It called for ending President Joe Biden’s plans to forgive student debt, rescinding a proposed expansion of the IRS, cappping discretionary spending for the foreseeable future, and recouping any COVID-19 funds that have not yet been spent, among numerous other measures.
Shrink Washington. Grow America. pic.twitter.com/vhteHNpNFS
— House Freedom Caucus (@freedomcaucus) March 10, 2023
Conservatives have argued that a massive reduction in spending is needed to lower the national debt and relieve inflation.
“Biden’s unapologetic and out-of-control spending has been killing our national economy for the past two years,” Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.) tweeted Tuesday. “It is more clear than ever that we have to shrink Washington in order to grow America.”
WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS GOP PLAN WOULD BE DISASTROUS
However, Biden and the White House argue the Republican plan would prove disastrous.
“The extreme MAGA Republican House Freedom Caucus has made their priorities clear: imposing devastating cuts and increasing costs for working- and middle-class families, all to protect and extend tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and big corporations,” a statement from the White House reads. “In fact, their tax cuts would be so expensive that their deep and harmful cuts would not reduce the deficit.”
If there was a central theme of the rather lengthy statement, it was that the Biden administration desperately wants to label the Freedom Caucus as extremists. The word extreme appears 11 times on the document, sometimes multiple times in the same sentence.
Beyond that rhetorical tactic, Biden also claimed, without proof, that Republicans would effectively dissolve most of the federal government.
“Last week, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed that Congressional Republicans’ budget math doesn’t add up,” the statement reads.
CBO found that — in order to meet Congressional Republicans’ stated commitment to balancing the budget in 10 years without raising taxes on the wealthy or corporations, and without cutting Social Security, Medicare, defense, and some veterans’ benefits — Congressional Republicans would need to eliminate everything in the rest of the Federal budget.”
WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS AND GOP PROPOSAL DON’T MATCH
Importantly, no part of the Freedom Caucus’ proposal addresses taxes on anyone. The entirety of the proposal centers on reigning in spending, save a single proposal to deregulate fossil fuel exploration (a likely controversial measure, but unrelated to the tax code).
And, the CBO report to which Biden referred did not state that all federal spending would have to be eliminated to balance the budget. Rather, the report outlines two pathways to balancing the budget by 2033, one in which total expenses were reduced by 29% and another in which certain elements of the 2017 Tax Act were extended and expenses reduced by 35%.
Under either pathway, the federal government would definitively shrink, but no specific program or policy was earmarked for elimination. In fact, there is a line in the report that specifies,
The budgetary paths you specified are illustrative and do not correspond to any specific spending policies. Legislation could reduce mandatory spending by making fewer people eligible for benefits or by reducing benefit amounts. Legislation could reduce discretionary spending by providing less funding for certain activities. It would take time for reductions in budget authority to result in reductions in outlays.”
FREEDOM CAUCUS CALLS OUT BIDEN’S LIES
Wednesday afternoon, the Freedom Caucus alongside Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) held a press conference in which they proved capable of giving as good as they got from Biden.
A cavalcade of Republicans took turns calling the current president a liar and blasting the White House for blame-shifting.
“President Biden can lie about our budget proposals all he wants,” Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) said on Twitter. “The truth is that inflation & reckless spending by this Administration are hurting working families. I am proud to join my @freedomcaucus and Senate colleagues on our proposal to shrink Washington and grow America.”
President Biden can lie about our budget proposals all he wants. The truth is that inflation & reckless spending by this Administration are hurting working families.
I am proud to join my @freedomcaucus and Senate colleagues on our proposal to shrink Washington and grow America. pic.twitter.com/v2FdNcsxxy
— Congressman Bob Good (@RepBobGood) March 22, 2023
“If Joe Biden was your husband he’d say ‘Honey I know we only make $4K a month but let’s spend $7K a month,” Rep. Byron Donald (R-Fla.) tweeted along with a video of a short speech he gave at the press conference. “That DOES NOT work. Everyone in America would shutter if that’s how they handled their family finances. COVID’s OVER. It’s time we get back to pre-COVID spending levels.”
If Joe Biden was your husband he'd say “Honey I know we only make $4K a month but let’s spend $7K a month.”
That DOES NOT work.
Everyone in America would shutter if that’s how they handled their family finances.
COVID's OVER. It's time we get back to pre-COVID spending levels. pic.twitter.com/nGEpaVZLrm
— Congressman Byron Donalds (@RepDonaldsPress) March 22, 2023
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) was also in attendance and said Americans were being asked to fund a government bent on censoring opposing voices.
“There’s no reason that Americans should be forced to fund their own censorship at the hands of the federal government’s censorship-laundering scheme,” Bishop said. “We need to shrink Washington to save America, and there’s plenty of woke and weaponized spending to cut.”
There's no reason that Americans should be forced to fund their own censorship at the hands of the federal government's censorship-laundering scheme.
We need to shrink Washington to save America, and there's plenty of woke and weaponized spending to cut. pic.twitter.com/7kYnmqiNUd
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) March 22, 2023
In reality, the blowback against Biden began before the press conference.
“Under Biden’s budget, small businesses face $1.8 trillion in tax hikes,” Rep. Eli Crane (R-Ariz.) tweeted earlier in the day. “The White House is shamelessly taxing small businesses into the ground to fund welfare for the wealthy.”
Crane’s fellow Arizonanan, Rep. Andy Biggs, was particularly active.
When Biden tweeted, “MAGA House Republicans want to roll back our savings for seniors, add trillions to the deficit, and line the pockets of Big Pharma. It’s my mission to make life easier on families — not harder,” Biggs responded, “Talk about projecting. Your steep inflation is depleting savings for our seniors, your spending on woke pet projects in two years has added trillions to the deficit, and you have protected Big Pharma behind closed doors. You’ve quite literally made life harder on families.”
Talk about projecting.
Your steep inflation is depleting savings for our seniors, your spending on woke pet projects in two years has added trillions to the deficit, and you have protected Big Pharma behind closed doors.
You've quite literally made life harder on families. https://t.co/xb0XqEznVY
— Rep Andy Biggs (@RepAndyBiggsAZ) March 22, 2023
As with all things in politics, the entire back-and-forth between Republicans and Biden is primarily a dance as each susses out how much territory it might gain or preserve as the deadline for the two major parties reaching an agreement on how to increase the debt ceiling approaches.
The overwhelming likelihood is that Freedom Caucus members will have to soften their stance. More moderate Republican voices in the Senate, among them Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have bristled at the idea of playing too much hardball on the debt ceiling.
However, Biden will almost certainly be forced to acquiesce to substantially more demands than he would like. He cannot avoid a massive hit to the nation’s credit without doing something to court Republicans in the House.
All that is left to work out is who gives how much ground and in which areas.