As Republicans prepare to wage a war on crucial anti-poverty programs when they take control of the House, using the debt limit and major risks to the economy as a weapon, some members of the GOP are threatening to vote against raising the debt limit no matter what.
According to CNN, several Republicans are saying that they will still vote against a bill raising the debt limit even if Republicans get all of their fringe demands – namely, cuts to social programs, among other things — put into the legislation. “I’m not sure I’ve seen anything that’s going to be able to convince me to raise the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Arizona).
Failing to raise the debt limit before the expected deadline of the first quarter of 2023 would have disastrous consequences for the economy. The U.S. would be at risk of defaulting on its payments, which would ruin the nation’s credit worthiness and could trigger a recession at a time when the state of the economy is already precarious, especially for the working class.
Other Republicans are saying that they will only vote for the legislation if it includes cuts to popular social programs that keep tens of millions of people above the poverty line each year. This could apply to programs like Social Security, Medicare and SNAP. Some Republicans have suggested cutting COVID spending and boosting funds for Donald Trump-era energy and immigration policies.
One GOP lawmaker went so far as to disparage social programs as “garbage.”
“There’s a lot of fat and garbage that’s way off the mission that we can cut,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), answered “hell no” when asked if he would support a package that didn’t cut federal discretionary programs like Social Security and Medicare.
The fact that not raising the debt limit comes with such huge risks is precisely why Republicans are planning to use it as leverage to force through their priorities, as they’ve been threatening to do for months now. It would be especially politically expedient for them to do so with a Democrat in the White House who they can use as a scapegoat. Cutting extremely popular social programs under Joe Biden could also be a weapon for the party to use against Democrats later, bending the truth to make it seem as though Biden was responsible for the cuts.
Though Republicans often say that they refuse to raise the debt limit because they oppose spending bills, this line of reasoning is based on a false premise. The debt limit does not authorize new spending; rather, the debt limit is raised in order to accommodate spending that has already been promised by the government. Some progressives argue, as a result, that the debt ceiling should be abolished altogether in order to prevent future standoffs that could potentially wreck the economy.
Cutting social programs would be devastating for beneficiaries and would have ripple effects across the entire economy. Social Security and Medicare are among the country’s most effective anti-poverty programs, while SNAP is the country’s most potent federal anti-hunger program, providing access to food for tens of millions of residents in the U.S. Since Republicans are generally opposed to programs that help the working class — while supporting absurdly high budgets for things like the Pentagon — cutting social programs like Social Security has been on the party’s priority list for many years now.
Republicans could have a chance to do so if Democrats don’t take action to prevent the GOP’s threat of economic brinkmanship. Senate Republicans have laid out a plan to use the debt limit, which must overcome the 60-vote filibuster threshold to pass, to force cuts to social programs, viewing the legislation as an “opportunity” to do so.
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