Members of the House Freedom Caucus on Friday presented a set of spending cuts and budget proposals they want as a condition of even considering voting in favor of raising the national debt ceiling, laying down one of the first markers in the House Republican Conference for debt ceiling negotiations.
The hard-line conservative caucus wants to cap overall discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels for 10 years while allowing for 1 percent growth per year, which would be a $131 billion cut from current levels. The group would aim to keep defense spending at current levels.
In addition, the caucus called to end President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program; rescind unspent COVID-19 and Inflation Reduction Act funds; enact the REINS Act, a bill that would broaden congressional input on agency regulations; and loosen domestic energy production regulations.
The group also wants to restore “Clinton-era work requirements on welfare programs” like Medicaid and pass a preemptive continuing resolution to set nondefense discretionary spending at fiscal 2019 levels in order to pressure Congress to pass appropriations.
“We’ve got a serious proposal. We urge our colleagues on the Republican side and the Democrat side to come along. If you don’t like what we’ve offered – bless you, that’s fine. What have you got to offer?” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said in a press conference on Friday, flanked by more than a dozen of the group’s other members.
Perry added the plan largely looks at nondefense discretionary spending, and that defense spending could remain flat while other cuts could achieve getting the top-line discretionary figure to fiscal 2022 levels.
The demands come as Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) pushes President Biden for a deal on spending reductions as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, although McCarthy has not laid out his own specific proposals.
Any official budget position for the House GOP is likely to be less aggressive than the House Freedom Caucus plan, but Perry forecast optimism about agreement: “We’re not assuming leadership is opposed to any of this.”
The Freedom Caucus indicated it was open to negotiation on the measures.
“If somebody else on our side of the aisle or the other side of the aisle or a combination of the two wants to bring some plan together, we’re certainly going to consider it, but this is where we stand,” Perry said.
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) alluded to the rules change concessions that many of the members extracted from McCarthy from the drawn-out Speaker election earlier this year.
“We fought to have the tools to do what we are doing today, and it’s time that we stop bragging about our tools, admiring our tools, and actually get to nicks them — actually use the tools that we fought so hard for House Republicans to have in this Congress,” Boebert said.
The White House released a $6.8 trillion budget proposal on Thursday that includes tax hikes on the wealthy as a means for reducing the budget deficit. It immediately drew sharp pushback from Republicans.
“His budget makes his priorities clear. His administration is at war with the American people’s freedom and prosperity,” said Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas). “We need to shrink Washington and grow America. His budget would do the opposite.”
Perry also said he is in communication with “numerous senators” on the spending demands.
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) praised the Freedom Caucus proposal after its release on Friday.
“Finally, a glimpse of common sense in Washington. Today’s proposal from the HFC marks a commitment to a return to fiscal sanity and accountability in Congress,” Scott said in a statement.