The Senate will be doing what Speaker Kevin McCarthy refused to do: hold hearings on the big funding cuts package House Republicans passed last week. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced the hearings in a letter to colleagues Monday, first reported by Punchbowl News.
“Last week, House Republicans sent a hard-right ransom note to the American people,” Schumer wrote. “The Republicans Default on America Act (DOA) offers two choices: either default on the debt or default on America, forcing steep cuts to law enforcement, veterans, families, teachers, and kids. Democrats will not allow it.” That’s Schumer doubling down on the fact that the Senate will not vote on this bill, officially dubbing it DOA.
The McCarthy bill fulfilled almost every part of the Freedom Caucus’ wish list for spending cuts for 2024. It rolls back total government spending levels to 2022, excluding defense, which takes up a huge chunk of annual expenditures. Because defense spending is excluded, most other programs bear the brunt of the cuts to the tune of almost one-quarter of their funding. That means a 22% across-the-board cut on all the other programs—including health care, education, science, and labor.
Despite the much bally-hooed “regular order” McCarthy promised he would bring to the House, he and his leadership team—and the Freedom Caucus—wrote the bill, had no hearings, no public input, and negotiated privately in the middle of the night, a point Schumer made sure to highlight. “This bill was hastily drafted and forced through the House at a break-neck speed. Not a single Committee of jurisdiction held a hearing or a mark-up,” he said.
The Senate will hold a series of hearings, Schumer wrote, to “expose the true impact of this reckless legislation on everyday Americans.” The first hearing will be Thursday in the Budget Committee, chaired by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. Witnesses will include Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, and leaders of the Environmental Defense Fund and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
President Joe Biden and Senate Democrats are holding firm to their position that lifting the debt ceiling is not open for negotiation, and that budgeting for 2024 has to be done in separate negotiations. McCarthy is operating on the supposition that what the House just passed is their budget, despite the fact that it doesn’t actually propose any budgets for any agencies.
There are few specifics in the bill beyond punishing people on Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by forcing them to prove they meet a work-reporting requirement or qualify for an exemption. If they can’t comply with the new bureaucratic hurdles, the benefits are taken away. Meanwhile, House Republicans are also giving wealthy tax cheats a break while ending student debt relief for millions of borrowers.
Because the bill is so vague, it gives Senate Democrats free rein to lay out in their hearing precisely what is at risk. Schumer promised to do precisely that in the upcoming hearing, and to focus on the threat to the nation’s economy. “The Republican Default on America Act does nothing to actually resolve the looming debt crisis, and it has no hope of ever becoming law. If anything, the MAGA House Republicans actions have increased the likelihood of default,” he wrote. “It locks the House into an unacceptable and extreme position that pulls us even further apart. If Speaker McCarthy was a serious good-faith negotiator, he would not have let extremists take him hostage and move this debate in the wrong direction.”
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.