Two Points About the Debt Ceiling and Spending Cuts

I don’t know why some people claim that Republicans won’t get specific about the things they would cut from the federal budget. I was glad to see Robert Greenstein address this in the commentary I referenced earlier today:

Some Democrats dismiss the threat that the Boehner rule poses, saying that Republicans ultimately will back off of it because they won’t publicly identify the specific program cuts they would make to produce the savings that would raise the debt ceiling for a reasonable period of time. That view, alas, is mistaken.

To be sure, Republican congressional leaders seem unwilling to propose specific cuts in the two main, popular middle-class entitlement programs — Medicare and Social Security — that would produce large savings over the next ten years. They want Democrats to propose such cuts, or at a minimum, they want to find a way to put some Democratic fingerprints on them.

But, Republican leaders appear more than willing to specify deep cuts in two other parts of the budget — core entitlements for low-income Americans, like Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and the annual caps on funding for non-defense discretionary programs. The Ryan budget featured trillions of dollars of cuts in these two areas. House Republicans may well try to pass legislation in February to raise the debt limit for a year or so, accompanied by cuts primarily in low-income assistance programs and in the caps on non-defense discretionary programs. They will likely re-pass, in the new Congress, the legislation that they passed twice in the last Congress (most recently on December 20) to cancel the first year of sequestration and replace it with spending cuts that hit low-income programs disproportionately.

I would add that Republicans have supported a specific proposal to cut social security as well, by proposing to switch to chained CPI.  They almost got this during the last round of negotiations with the President, in fact, and I don’t know why it might not be proposed again.

Second point: Republicans thinks the public overwhelmingly has their back on the so-called “Boehner Rule”—that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by massive spending cuts.