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President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17.
President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 17.Bonnie Cash / Bloomberg via Getty Images, file

Biden takes aim at Republican plans to cut health care benefits

As Republicans raise the specter of tying health care benefits to their debt ceiling strategy, President Joe Biden is pushing back pretty aggressively.


President Joe Biden hasn’t focused a lot of public attention on the Republicans’ debt ceiling threats lately, but the Democrat sent an unexpected shot across the GOP’s bow via social media yesterday afternoon.

“We’ve paid America’s bills for 200 years,” Biden wrote. “Now, House Republicans want to play politics with the full faith and credit of the United States — threatening to default on our debt unless they get their way. I won’t let them take away Americans’ health care to balance their budget.”

As the Associated Press reported, the president is taking a similar message to a Virginia audience today.

President Joe Biden is aiming to use the leadup to the release of his proposed budget next week to sketch a dire picture of what could happen to U.S. health care if congressional Republicans had their way with federal spending. The Democratic president is traveling to Virginia Beach, Virginia, on Tuesday to discuss potential GOP efforts to cut spending on health care, part of a broader presidential push this week to draw a strong contrast between his administration’s priorities and those of Republicans.

At first blush, this might seem premature. GOP leaders have launched debt ceiling threats, telling the White House that Republicans will cause a deliberate economic catastrophe unless their demands are met, but for now, their ransom note remains blank. GOP officials expect some kind of payment, but they’ve largely refused to say what exactly would satisfy them.

So why is Biden calling out Republicans’ regressive health care plans? Because the GOP hasn’t been entirely silent. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month:

Republicans on the House Budget Committee on Wednesday floated a list of sample budget cuts they could back in exchange for raising the nation’s debt ceiling. ... [The proposed ideas] include stronger work requirements for able-bodied adults on food stamps and welfare, capping Obamacare subsidies at a lower income level, and rescinding the Biden student loan forgiveness program. Also targeted are items treasured by liberals, like environmental-justice programs, postal-service electric vehicles, low-emission buses, and legal assistance for asylum seekers.

To be sure, this is not an agenda that has received an official endorsement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the rest of the GOP leadership team. Their demands in the debt ceiling standoff, at least for now, remain a secret.

But Republicans on the House Budget Committee did put these ideas on paper, handing Democrats a target.

Indeed, the more GOP leaders refuse to fill in the blanks on their own plan, the easier it is for Democrats to take aim at the only available information Republicans have provided: a series of budget cuts that would, among other things, make it more difficult for families to afford health insurance and new restrictions on those who rely on food assistance.

What’s more, The Washington Post reported last week that congressional Republicans are acting under the tutelage of Russell Vought, Donald Trump’s far-right former budget director, who’s pushing GOP lawmakers to leverage the debt ceiling to demand massive cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act.

“The bottom line is this: Congressional Republicans have committed themselves to very deep cuts to programs that tens of millions of Americans count on,” Aviva Aron-Dine, deputy director of the National Economic Council, told the AP ahead of Biden’s planned remarks. “And the president believes that they owe the American people transparency about what that will mean, and if they won’t provide it, he will.”