House Republicans haven’t formally unveiled a budget plan yet, but the new GOP majority did show members a slideshow presentation this week, sketching out some bullet points on the party’s priorities. For those who take public services and arithmetic seriously, the news wasn’t encouraging.
Evidently, House Republicans want to, among other things, cap federal spending at fiscal 2022 levels and eliminate deficits altogether within the decade. The presentation came less than a day after those same GOP members voted to increase the deficit by $114 billion — which reminded me of people who say they’re going to get serious about losing weight, just as soon as they finish a box of doughnuts.
Nevertheless, it’s clear that the new Republican majority has some dramatic cuts in mind, some of which, as a mathematical matter, would have to include deep cuts to social insurance programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
As for other shifts in federal spending, Business Insider noted this week that a prominent House Republican is also on board with defunding the Department of Homeland Security.
Texas Representative Chip Roy called on fellow Republicans on Monday to seek out a new solution for the border: a defunded Department of Homeland Security. In a speech to the House, Roy said Texans were “struggling” and claimed Republicans would seek to strip funding from the DHS this year. The department oversees US Customs and Border Protection.
“[I]t’s time right now for the House majority to do our job and we’re going to have to stop funding a Department of Homeland Security that refuses to secure the border of the United States,” Roy said during remarks on the House floor.
I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Congress will not, in fact, “stop funding” the Department of Homeland Security, though impeaching its leader appears to be a more likely scenario.
Roy’s rhetoric, however, did spark some worthwhile discussion about what else the new GOP majority might want to defund.
Stripping the Internal Revenue Service of key resources is obviously a top Republican priority, and some GOP officials are on record endorsing defunding the FBI. But even more provocative is talk in Republican circles about possibly cutting funds for the military.
“You got to look at everything, and you do it in a way that doesn’t hurt our troops,” Rep. Jim Jordan said this week on the Fox Business Network. The Ohioan added, “But we do have to look at general officer ratio to enlisted individuals. And we do have to look at all the woke nonsense that we see now in our military and the money that goes for things like that. So those have to be on the table.”
The far-right congressman made similar comments a day earlier on Fox News, saying “Everything has to be on the table” in response to a question about possible Pentagon cuts. Jordan added that Congress could try to save money by “getting rid of all the woke policies in our military.”
I’m not altogether sure what that means, and he didn’t specify which military policies he doesn’t like.
Nevertheless, this did not go unnoticed at the Biden White House. “This push to defund our military in the name of politics is senseless and out of line with our national security needs,” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said.
My best guess is that officials at the IRS, FBI, DHS, and DOD — in addition to the Americans who rely on those agencies — shouldn’t worry too much about Republicans slashing their budgets. There is, after all, a Democratic president and a Democratic-led White House.
But as a Washington Post analysis concluded this week, “[C]ertain lawmakers eager to target a given agency could force some uncomfortable conversations, thanks to [House Speaker Kevin] McCarthy’s concessions and the narrow GOP majority putting the House Freedom Caucus in the driver’s seat. And the fact that the GOP saw fit to launch its new House majority by voting to defund the IRS based on hyperbolic claims seems to say plenty about where things could go from here.”