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As U.S. debt soars toward $50 trillion, House GOP lacks clear plan to cut deficit as shutdown looms

President Biden has vowed to veto legislation that reduces federal spending beyond the deal he reached with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which would only limit domestic spending growth to 1% annually.

Published: November 8, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: November 9, 2023 6:11am

The national debt is projected to reach $50 trillion by 2033 but the GOP-led House appears to lack a cohesive plan to cut deficit as lawmakers face a government shutdown deadline in less than 10 days.

House Republicans campaigned on reducing the federal deficit in the 2022 midterm elections, which resulted in a House majority, albeit a slim one of 221-212.

House conservatives have been pushing for significant spending cuts across multiple federal agencies but the entire House GOP conference doesn't appear to be on board. For one, newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson has yet to release the text of a temporary GOP spending bill that would avoid a government shutdown by Nov. 17. Also, the House has only passed 7 out of 12 appropriations bills to fund the cabinet agencies and other federal government operations. 

Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., predicted that the House would pass all of its appropriations bills before the Nov. 17 deadline but said there wouldn't be enough time to conference with the Senate. In the meantime, he said simply passing a continuing resolution (CR) that lasts through January or February that funds the government at current levels is a no go in the House.

"It cannot be a clean CR," Clyde said Wednesday. "I think that's completely out of the question."

Some lawmakers in the House GOP conference appear less inclined to pursue significant spending cuts because Democrats hold a majority in the Senate and President Biden is in the White House. Biden has long vowed to veto legislation that would reduce federal spending beyond the deal he reached with former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, which would keep domestic spending at current levels for fiscal year 2024 and limit its growth to 1% annually.

"They act like it's a catastrophe that we're going to have to cut 1%, which is laughable if it wasn't so serious but hopefully we'll have some percentage cut that we can measure all across the board," House conservative Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., told Just the News. "We really should be back to pre-COVID levels but we're just not there yet. We'll see what happens."

According to the House Appropriations Committee, just 3 out of 7 appropriations bills that have passed so far in the GOP-led House would reduce federal spending from current levels. The committee provided Just the News with data showing that the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies of 2024 appropriations bill reduces spending by 35% compared to fiscal year 2023 levels.

The legislative branch spending bill, which funds congressional operations, reduces spending in that area by 4.7% from the 2023 enacted level and the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill cuts $16.4 billion or 12% below the fiscal year 2023 enacted level.

The deficit for fiscal year 2023 added a record $1.7 trillion to the national debt, which is climbing to $34 trillion, according to the latest data from the Treasury Department. 

Bank of America released a projection this week based on Congressional Budget Office data, which estimated that the U.S. national debt will reach $50 trillion by 2033 on the current trajectory. 

Despite these staggering fiscal figures, the GOP-led House was forced to call off a vote on the transportation and housing appropriations bill Tuesday evening due to disagreements over the cost of several provisions such as Amtrak funding.

“I think that many of us are comfortable reining in federal spending, but not disproportionately impacting our region,” said Rep. Marc Molinaro, R-N.Y.

Congressional sources told Just the News that similar issues have surfaced with regard to the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service appropriations bill currently being debated in the chamber.

House Republicans also targeted the additional IRS funding in the Democrats' Inflation Reduction Act as a way to pay for $14.3 billion in foreign assistance to Israel as the country battles the terrorist organization Hamas. The CBO found that these cuts would add to the deficit over the next 10 years, given that the IRS is the government's tax collection agency.

Conservative House members like Norman argue that the GOP-led House should still pass large spending cuts given the record breaking deficit and national debt and put the ball in the Senate's court.

"We want to make the Senate own what they what they do, if it's inaction, let them own it," he told Just the News. "They only have three of their bills out. We've got seven of the 12 appropriation bills already passed."

Norman noted that the spending cuts conservatives are pursuing won't "balance the budget" right away if enacted but "it's a step in the right direction."

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