Mar 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

White House sounds alarm on Freedom Caucus' budget plan

Illustration of a penny as a fire alarm bell

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The White House will take a preemptive shot at Republicans on the federal budget this week, rolling out a blistering five-point critique of a plan by the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The Biden administration — still waiting for Republicans' official budget plan for fiscal 2024 — is trying to gain a tactical advantage in the upcoming budget talks by casting a proposal by three dozen GOP hardliners as a "five-alarm fire" for Americans.

  • The Freedom Caucus' plan calls for across-the-board cuts in U.S. agencies' funding by capping spending at 2022 levels for the next 10 years. It would end Biden's $400 billion student loan forgiveness program, reclaim unspent Covid funds, increase work requirements for welfare recipients, and more.
  • House Republicans insist that Biden cut his $6.8 trillion budget or they won't approve raising the debt ceiling — a move that could create an economic calamity.

Driving the news: Each day this week, the White House plans to show how part of the Freedom Caucus plan would hurt Americans —using new analyses by agencies and the OMB:

  1. Today: Biden administration officials will say that cuts to police funding and train safety would endanger public safety.
  2. Tuesday: They aim to show how health care and energy cuts required by the Freedom Caucus plan would raise costs for families.
  3. Wednesday: The White House will emphasize how cuts in incentives for manufacturing investments would undermine U.S. workers by sending manufacturing jobs overseas.
  4. Thursday: They'll say that cuts to Medicare would be required, hurting seniors.
  5. Friday: And that defense cuts would be necessary, weakening national security.

The big picture: The proposal from Freedom Caucus came just after Biden announced a plan that he said would trim deficits by nearly $3 trillion over 10 years, through various savings efforts and raising taxes on those earning more than $400,000 a year.

  • The Freedom Caucus is led by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who has indicated that if Biden won't accept huge cuts, Republicans won't vote to raise the debt ceiling — and will blame the president if the U.S. defaults on its debt.
  • "America will not default on our debts unless President Biden chooses to do so," Perry said.

Between the lines: Senior White House officials have said serious budget negotiations between Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) won't begin until House Republicans can agree on a GOP plan for federal spending.

  • McCarthy indicated that the GOP budget may come later than the original April timeline.
  • The pair had an initial meeting in January to discuss the budget, but haven’t had a follow-up.

What they're saying: Cuts such as what the Freedom Caucus proposes "would cause irreparable harm to our communities by gutting the programs every single American relies on," said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee.

  • "Those proposals are unrealistic, unsustainable and unconscionable."
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