Mar 10, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Freedom Caucus draws battle lines on debt ceiling

Rep. Scott Perry and members of the House Freedom Caucus. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

The right-wing House Freedom Caucus on Friday released its list of prerequisites for cutting the federal budget in order for its members to support raising the debt ceiling.

Why it matters: With Republicans holding a 5-seat House majority and a new rule giving any member the power to trigger a motion to remove the House speaker, these hardliners have considerable leverage to influence the budget process.

  • Their votes on the debt ceiling could mean the difference between the U.S. continuing to be able to borrow money to pay off its debts and a potentially catastrophic default.

The details: In a statement released Friday, the caucus listed the conditions for its members to "consider voting to raise the debt ceiling."

  • Ending the Biden administration's $400 billion student loan forgiveness program.
  • Rescinding unspent COVID relief funds.
  • Clawing back funding for the IRS and climate change prevention in the Inflation Reduction Act.
  • Instituting greater work requirements on welfare programs.
  • Requiring congressional sign-off on all major federal regulations before they can go into effect.
  • Finding "every dollar spent by Democrats that can be reclaimed for the American taxpayer."

The big picture: The statement calls for significant across-the-board cuts in funding to federal agencies by capping spending at 2022 levels for the next 10 years.

  • It's geared towards an eventual goal of balancing the budget – though Freedom Caucus Chair Scott Perry (R-Pa.) acknowledged the proposals don't quite reach the cuts needed to accomplish that.
  • "This is what we're willing to do with what's happening right now," Perry said at a press conference on Friday, adding that the current goal is "changing the trajectory" of the budget process to enable further cuts.

What they're saying: Perry, flanked by more than a dozen of his Freedom Caucus colleagues, said President Biden's $6.8 trillion budget request is "not happening."

  • Perry also expressed confidence that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) won't try to bypass their leverage by working across the aisle: "Speaker McCarthy is not going to cut a deal with Democrats."
  • "We're not assuming that leadership is opposed to these thing," he told reporters, "What is objectionable here? ... this is all reasonable stuff."
Go deeper