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What do Republicans want in the debt ceiling fight?

Conservatives believe the debt limit should be raised in exchange for some spending cuts. Here's what they want.
What do Republicans want in the debt ceiling fight?
Posted at 7:19 AM, May 15, 2023

The clock continues to tick for a possible default in our country. 

President Biden and Congressional leaders are expected to meet again Tuesday, after their scheduled meeting on Friday was canceled. The president leaves for Japan on Wednesday. 

Economists have warned that a default could impact the markets and your 401(k), as well as put the delivery of entitlement programs, like Social Security checks, at risk.

Where things stand

It's been a few weeks now since the secretary of the Treasury wrote to Congress, saying that a default would be possible in early June — potentially June 1 — unless Congress acts. A more definitive default deadline date is expected to be announced soon.

Meanwhile, negotiations continue, and it can be a bit confusing.

Democrats' position for months has been that they want a clean debt ceiling increase, followed by budget negotiations. However, they don't have the votes for that. 

Meanwhile, conservatives believe the debt limit should be raised in exchange for some spending cuts. So what cuts do conservatives want?

Conservatives are pushing for cuts

To be clear, negotiations right now are happening behind closed doors.

However, the easiest way to figure out what conservatives want is to look at what already passed in the House of Representatives: the 320-page Limit, Save, Grow Act.

• Page 15 is where you begin to learn what Republicans are seeking. That is where you find "the rescission of unobligated coronavirus funds." That's a mouthful, but it means Republicans want cities and states who haven't used their previously allocated pandemic stimulus dollars to give it back. Estimates have savings of around $56 billion.

• On the same page, you see this phrase: "prohibit unfair student loan giveaways." That targets President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan as well as changes to income-driven repayment plans. The Supreme Court could issue a ruling in the coming weeks blocking it, but conservatives want it blocked now. Estimated savings: $425 billion.

• Another page you should flip to is page 89. Conservatives are calling it "taxpayer protection," but in reality, it's about rescinding the billions of dollars allocated to the Internal Revenue Service last year to increase the number of auditors. Estimated savings: $71 billion. However, the non-partisan congressional budget office says a defunded IRS would result in less tax revenue over time, wiping out any savings.

• And finally, on page 95, something known as a "community engagement requirement" appears. It would mean more able-bodied adults under 56 years of age would have to work or volunteer each month to stay on Medicaid. New restrictions would also be placed on how long someone can receive SNAP benefits — money for low-income people to buy food. Estimated Savings: $120 billion.

To be clear, these proposals from conservatives are being met with resistance inside the White House, although there appears to be some willingness to include something that impacts permitting reform in any possible deal. 

Bharat Ramamurti is on President Biden's National Economic Council. 

"We have two very different visions, us and the Republicans," he told Scripps News.

Still, conservatives say, the White House must be willing to cut something.

Sen. Chuck Grassley recently told Scripps News people shouldn't panic about a potential default. "It's all part of a big compromise to get this spending down," Grassley said.


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