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Haris Alic


NextImg:White House says GOP’s bebt limit bill will nix 2k border patrol agents, 81k VA health jobs

The White House is launching a full assault on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s recently passed debt limit legislation, warning that if all of the budget cuts go into effect it will be disastrous for the economy and taxpayers. 

White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said on Saturday that if GOP’s proposed spending caps were implemented more than 2,000 border patrol agents would be laid off alone. 

“With this week’s vote, House Republicans looked their constituents in the eye and said that they are willing to single-handedly trigger a recession unless they can fire thousands of border patrol agents,” said Mr. Bates.

Mr. McCarthy pushed through legislation Wednesday to increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion until May 2024 while slashing $4.8 trillion in spending. The bill would cut federal spending by $130 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and limit budget growth to 1% annually over the next decade.

Republicans have said the $130 billion cut is meant to bring spending back into line with where it was before Congress passed a $1.7 trillion government funding bill in December 2022. That legislation saw defense spending alone grow by nearly 10% — from $782 billion to $858 billion. 

Administration officials say the $130 billion cut could target every single agency across the span of the federal government. That includes Customs and Border Protection, which saw its budget jump $14.6 billion to $16.5 billion between the 2022 and 2023 fiscal years.

“The extreme [bill] would impose these damaging cuts for our national security in order to make room for deficit-increasing tax giveaways to rich special interests, including billionaires and multinational corporations,” said Mr. Bates. 

The warning came at the same time as officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs could see a 22% percent cut under the GOP’s debt limit bill. The VA said that would translate to high backlogs and worse services for America’s veterans. 

“The proposal would mean 30 million fewer Veteran outpatient visits, and 81,000 jobs lost across the Veterans Health Administration… The Veterans Benefits Administration would eliminate more than 6,000 staff, increasing the disability claims backlog by an estimated 134,000 claims,” the VA said in a press statement.

House Republicans are pushing back, saying the budget cuts would be targeted at domestic programs and not aimed across the board at every single federal department. 

“Misrepresentation, misinformation,” said Rep. Eli Crane, Arizona Republican. “I was in the room with the Freedom Caucus while they were drafting a lot of the elements that went into the cuts … most of it is woke and weaponized federal spending.” 

The issue largely results from the uncertainty of what will be cut. House Republicans have not specified which agencies and programs will be targeted, instead saying the spending bill for the upcoming fiscal year will have to be $130 billion less than that passed by Congress in December. 

“It’s a spending limit, we’re saying we won’t go above this amount in the coming fiscal year and then in the following year spending can only grow by 1% of that figure,” said a senior GOP aide. “Where the cuts come from is going to be decided by the speaker and the president when they sit down and negotiate.”

House Republicans have outlined other cuts they also want to see in exchange for raising the debt limit. Topping the list is rescinding at least $90.5 billion in unspent pandemic relief, canceling Mr. Biden‘s student loan forgiveness program, and scraping green energy tax credits that Democrats passed last year. 

Beyond cutting spending, GOP lawmakers want to overhaul the nation’s energy permitting laws, impose work requirements on social welfare programs, and require congressional approval for any new regulations with an economic impact of more than $100 million per year.

“If you look at this package, it represents the most commonsense, straightforward approach to addressing the spending problem that got us here as we confront the debt ceiling,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Louisiana Republican.

Mr. Biden vowed to veto the House GOP’s debt limit measure. The president has refused to negotiate with House Republicans on raising the debt limit, saying both Democrats and Republicans helped create the more than $31 trillion national debt. 

“This is a ransom note,” said Rep. James McGovern, Massachusetts Democrat. “They say that in order for us to pay our bills for one year, we have to make 10 years of deep cuts that will hurt our constituents.”

• Haris Alic can be reached at halic@washingtontimes.com.