The top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee accused her Republican colleagues on Thursday of increasing the likelihood of a government shutdown by approving spending numbers below the levels set under the bipartisan debt ceiling agreement, which hasn’t even been law for two weeks.
In an appearance on CNN, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., said House Republicans have already “walked away from this deal,” pointing to the House Appropriations Committee’s party-line vote Thursday to set next year’s spending at fiscal year 2022 levels—a substantial cut and well below the topline set by the debt ceiling law.
But the committee’s proposed cuts would apply only to nonmilitary spending, which includes programs related to education, environmental protection, child care, and more.
As HuffPost’s Jonathan Nicholson reported Thursday, the Republican-controlled appropriations panel “stuck with the defense number in the debt limit deal, meaning the total government funding pie would be smaller than what Democrats thought they’d agreed to only weeks ago―and the slice of that pie available for agencies and programs outside of the military would be even smaller.”
DeLauro stressed Thursday that she voted against the debt ceiling agreement because of its proposed domestic spending cuts.
But unlike Republicans, she added, “I’m willing to work within the framework of the agreement.”
“The issue will be how long will the Republicans try to hold this process hostage, and what kind of harm will be done in the interim,” DeLauro said. “We have an obligation because what we can’t do is have the government shut down. And that is potentially where the Republican majority wants to take us: to a government shutdown.”
The federal government will shut down if funding legislation isn’t passed by September 30, which marks the end of the current fiscal year.
The debt ceiling agreement negotiated by President Joe Biden and Republican leaders includes a mechanism aimed at making a shutdown less likely, but it’s not clear it will succeed as members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus signal that they would welcome a shutdown.
If Congress doesn’t approve all of its appropriations bills by January 1, 2024, the newly approved debt ceiling law will kick off “a process to institute a government funding bill for the remainder of the fiscal year that would put in place a 1% spending cut from fiscal 2023 levels for all defense and domestic spending,” The Washington Post explained earlier this month.
Those across-the-board cuts would exceed the proposed spending reductions under the debt ceiling deal—though the process would also prevent a transfer of billions of dollars out of the Internal Revenue Service’s budget.
“The idea is that the potential cuts to defense would motivate Republicans to complete the annual spending process and the cuts to domestic programs would similarly motivate Democrats,” the Post noted. “The spending cuts, however, would not be automatic. The House and Senate would still have to vote on them, but theoretically leaders would compile the votes for it to pass to abide by the agreement. However, there is some skepticism this would be a smooth process.”
“This doesn’t just mean promises broken—MAGA Republican extremism and chaos now includes threatening a government shutdown this fall.”
During a House Appropriations Committee hearing earlier this week, DeLauro slammed her Republican counterparts for abandoning the debt ceiling agreement and proposing funding allocations that are unacceptable to Democrats, heightening the chances of a government shutdown that would disrupt critical public services and programs.
“It appears that threatening a Republican default was insufficient and that the majority is now intent on driving a partisan appropriations process that will steer us into a prolonged continuing resolution at best, but more likely a government shutdown,” said DeLauro.
The cuts proposed by House Republicans, the Connecticut Democrat continued, “would kick 300,000 children out of child care and Head Start; make healthcare more expensive and less accessible for two million vulnerable people who rely on community health centers, and deny access to care for opioid use disorder for 28,000 people.”
“The ink is barely dry on the bipartisan budget agreement, yet we are here to consider the Republican majority’s spending agenda that completely reneges on the compromises struck less than two weeks ago,” DeLauro added.
But Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said Wednesday that she views the spending levels proposed in the debt limit agreement as “a ceiling, not a floor”—a position that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. has endorsed.
“The allocations before us reflect the change members on my side of the aisle want to see by returning spending to responsible levels,” Granger said Thursday, emphasizing that the bloated military budget would be shielded from cuts under the committee’s proposed spending allocations.
“With just months before the end of the fiscal year, we must not delay,” Granger said. “We need to work quickly to have all twelve bills signed into law by September 30th.”
Other House Republicans haven’t expressed such urgency—and in fact appear perfectly content to shut down the federal government in pursuit of massive spending cuts.
“We shouldn’t fear a government shutdown,” Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a member of the House Freedom Caucus, told Punchbowl this week. “If we shut it down in order to try to bring fiscal stability and fiscal solvency, that will save the country from an economic and fiscal standpoint for our kids and grandkids.”
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., voiced the same sentiment, telling the outlet that he is “not afraid of shutdowns.”
The New York Times reported Thursday that after “facing a rebellion by hard-right Republicans over the debt limit agreement, Mr. McCarthy and his leadership team blindsided Democrats this week by setting allocations for the 12 annual spending bills at 2022 levels, about $119 billion less than the $1.59 trillion allowed for in the agreement to raise the debt ceiling.”
Those allocations were then rubberstamped by the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee, setting the stage for a tumultuous and potentially damaging spending fight in the coming weeks.
“Last month, Kevin McCarthy and House Republican leaders made a deal with President Biden. Now they are trying to break it,” Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., said Thursday. “This doesn’t just mean promises broken—MAGA Republican extremism and chaos now includes threatening a government shutdown this fall.”