Georgia Republicans back Speaker McCarthy’s budget cuts, debt limit plan

The Capitol dome in Washington.

Credit: Associated Press

Credit: Associated Press

The Capitol dome in Washington.

WASHINGTON — Georgia Republicans in the U.S. House are ready to back the package of budget cuts proposed by Speaker Kevin McCarthy, saying they should be part of any deal with Democrats on increasing the debt ceiling.

U.S. Rep. Mike Collins of Jackson said Republicans want to give their “quarterback” McCarthy the tools he needs to negotiate with President Joe Biden and Senate leaders as the nation grows closer each day to reaching its borrowing limit.

“We have to make sure we get this debt under control,” Collins said. “It’s time to start bringing our spending under control.”

McCarthy’s cost-cutting framework includes rolling back federal spending to 2022 levels, capping future spending increases to no more than 1% annually, implementing stricter work requirements for recipients of federal programs such as food stamps and clawing back billions of dollars in unspent coronavirus relief.

The speaker also pledged to reallocate funding set aside for the Internal Revenue Service to hire 87,000 employees, halt the implementation of green energy incentive programs and prohibit Biden from moving forward with student loan forgiveness.

In exchange for approval of these budget cuts, McCarthy said Republicans would support suspending the debt cap until March 2024 or when the national debt reaches $32.9 trillion, a $1.5 trillion increase.

“President Biden has a choice: come to the table and stop playing partisan political games or cover his ears, refuse to negotiate and risk bumbling his way into the first default in our nation’s history,” McCarthy said during a speech Wednesday. “I urge all my colleagues to support this plan to get our nation back on track.”

Biden has insisted that the debt ceiling be lifted separate from any discussions on federal spending. He and other Democrats point out that Republicans raised the debt limit as a stand-alone measure three times under GOP President Donald Trump.

In remarks from a Maryland union hall on Wednesday, Biden accused McCarthy of unveiling a “MAGA economic vision for America” that hurts working families by cutting programs and benefits they count on while holding hostage the nation’s financial health. Biden said Republicans should offer a plan and negotiate the budget separately from raising the debt limit before the threat of default, a deadline that is expected sometime this summer.

“No one should do anything to jeopardize the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” the president said. “Instead of making threats to default if I don’t go along with what they want, which would be catastrophic to the country ... take default off the table. And let’s have a real, serious, detailed conversation about how to grow the economy, lower costs and reduce the deficit.”

McCarthy’s debt-ceiling package, which includes the budget reductions, has not been turned into formal bill language yet. But he plans to hold a House floor vote as early as next week. With Republicans holding a slim majority in the House, it is not clear whether McCarthy’s offer has enough votes to pass.

But most of Georgia’s Republican-majority delegation appears to be on board. U.S. Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton said he supports McCarthy’s plan. So did U.S. Rep Barry Loudermilk of Cassville, who said the framework is “right for the moment” as a starting point for discussions with Democrats.

U.S. Rep. Andrew Clyde of Athens is among the more conservative lawmakers who have pushed McCarthy to add more cuts to his proposal in recent days. He approves of removing funding for programs in the Inflation Reduction Act that incentivize the purchase of electric vehicles and aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

“The government doesn’t need to be picking winners and losers when it comes to who gets the tax credit for their business and who doesn’t get the tax credit,” Clyde said. “I think our free-market economy is the best type of economy in the world, and it should be allowed to make that decision itself.”

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Rome said she is angry about the national debt, which continues to rise, but she is ready to negotiate. Default, which could destabilize financial systems across the globe, is not an option, she said.

“There’s no way I’ll vote for a clean debt-ceiling increase, but I’m also not going to allow the United States of America to default,” Greene said. “That’s just the wrong thing to do. So I think that we do have to have a negotiation, and I think there needs to be a level of maturity from everyone in this issue.”

Greene said she doesn’t see lifting the debt ceiling as the true test; she is more concerned about the upcoming discussions on spending that will come when it is time to pass bills funding the government for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

“I think the budget and appropriations is the place I’m going to step in and really fight,” she said. “Because I believe that’s where, as Republicans, that’s where our control is: It’s the power of the purse.”