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GOP Targets Food Aid, Student Debt Relief, and More for Debt Ceiling Deal

The Republican chair of the House Budget Committee put forth roughly $780 billion in proposed spending cuts.

From left, Representatives Jodey Arrington, Kevin Brady, and Chip Roy walk down the House steps on May 20, 2021.

Republicans on the House Budget Committee offered a preview Wednesday of the programs they’re looking to cut or overhaul as part of any agreement to lift the debt ceiling, a target list that includes food aid for low-income families, climate justice and electric vehicle funding, student debt relief, and Affordable Care Act subsidies.

The proposed cuts were outlined in a press release issued by Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-Texas), the chair of the House Budget Committee.

In total, Arrington put forth roughly $780 billion in proposed spending cuts, nearly half of which would come from reversing President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation — a plan that is currently blocked pending a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Notably absent from the House GOP’s outline was any mention of the U.S. military budget, which currently represents more than half of the federal government’s discretionary spending and is a hotbed of the kind of waste and fraud that Republicans claim to oppose.

At $858 billion, the fiscal year 2023 military budget alone is larger than the $780 billion in cuts Arrington has floated.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in a statement to Bloomberg that the GOP’s proposed spending cuts are a needless attack on the vulnerable.

Experts have repeatedly warned that more stringent income verification and work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients, for instance, would result in food aid cuts for many needy families.

“Why is it that whenever tough choices are required, Republicans want working families and children to make the sacrifice?” Boyle asked. “Why not keep our children fed and families healthy, and instead work with Democrats to ensure the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes?”

Arrington’s recommendations come as the GOP is facing growing backlash over its efforts to use the debt ceiling — and the looming possibility of a U.S. default — as leverage to pursue steep spending cuts, something the party has done to disastrous effect in the past.

Advocacy groups and analysts were quick to assail Arrington’s proposals.

The Debt Collective, an organization that supports student debt cancellation, wrote on Twitter that “it doesn’t ‘cost’ $379 billion to cancel $379 billion of student debt.”

“It’s pure fiction to think that killing cancellation will mean the [Department of Education] will collect $379 billion,” the group added. “Even the Federal Reserve knows there will be record defaults.”

Krutika Amin, associate director of the Kaiser Family Foundation, noted that the GOP proposal to cap Affordable Care Act subsidies at 400% of the federal poverty line “would mean middle-income people pay more for coverage.”

“A 60-year-old making $55,000 in 2023 pays 8.5% of their income on a silver plan,” Amin observed. “Without subsidies, they would pay over 20% of their income on average.”

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