House Republicans advanced a measure Monday that shifts automatic defense spending cuts the parties agreed to last August as part of a bipartisan debt-limit deal to domestic programs aimed at mitigating poverty and working-class struggles.
In clearing the legislation, the Budget Committee put it on a glide path to passing the full House — but that’s when it falls into limbo. Senate Democratic leadership had a concise message for their GOP colleagues: Dream on.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a member of her party’s leadership as well as the Budget and Appropriations committees, sharply rebuked Republicans for refusing to budge on their anti-tax rigidity.
“I understand why House Republicans would want us to forget about last August, but the fact is they brought us to the brink and then they agreed to a bipartisan deal to get us out of it,” Murray told TPM. “Today Republicans continue their mad dash away from that deal in order to protect the wealthy from paying a penny more. The reality is that the only way to avoid sequestration [deep automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending] is to work with us on a balanced and fair approach that protects middle-class families. Until Republicans realize that, they will only be negotiating with themselves.”
Her remarks reaffirm that President Obama and Democrats aren’t about to roll back the 10-year military spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1 — designed to pressure Congress to strike a balanced deficit-reduction deal — unless Republicans consider new revenues.
The GOP measure cuts $261 billion from domestic programs like children’s health care, food stamps and unemployment benefits, among others. It rolls back the first year’s worth of across-the-board military cuts and puts the remainder toward deficit reduction. Economists say unemployment insurance and food stamps have strong stimulative value during hard times.
Republicans defended the cuts as an important step forward for the nation’s fiscal health. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) argued Monday that despite their intentions, the programs aren’t having the desired impact. “We’re not measuring outcomes,” he said. “Are these programs working? Are people coming out of poverty?”
Before the vote, Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) unveiled a sign dubbing the bill “Wreckonciliation” — a play on the measure itself, which is being advanced under Congress’ obscure budget reconciliation rules. “It will wreck one life after another,” he said, “whether it’s preventive health care or whether it’s Jenny and the food she relies on through the Meals on Wheels program.”
Doggett’s sign provoked laughter in the committee room and applause from some Democrats, and even a grin from Ryan himself.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.