WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden will press House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for a detailed list of spending proposals when the two meet at the White House on Wednesday, officials said ahead of the meeting.
Biden advisers Brian Deese and Shalanda Young said in a memo to reporters Tuesday that the White House would release its own budget in early March.
“It is essential that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit,” Deese and Young wrote.
A Republican budget proposal, the advisers said, should specify whether Republicans would pursue savings through cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance subsidies, research or public safety spending.
Republicans should also specify “how much their budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year.” House Republicans approved a symbolic bill cutting IRS funding for tax enforcement, which the Congressional Budget Office said would boost deficits by more than $100 billion.
Republicans have signaled they want a major spending showdown with Biden, and that they would use the so-called “debt ceiling” as leverage. The federal government is already butting up against a legal limit on how much it can borrow in order to cover expenses, and if Congress fails to raise the limit, the government would default — potentially triggering a financial crisis and a recession.
Biden has said he would refuse to negotiate over the debt limit, but has nevertheless engaged in a back-and-forth with Republicans, skewering them for suggesting they’d cut spending on popular retirement programs and demanding they be specific about what they want.
Republicans have struggled to define what they’d like to see cut from the federal budget. Some have proposed vague across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending, while others have suggested that it is Biden and the White House who should identify spending restrictions. A top House Republican on Monday said the GOP would seek to cut the “woke agenda” in negotiations with Biden.
Since last week, McCarthy has claimed that Republicans would not propose changes to Social Security or Medicare as part of their spending demands. GOP lawmakers typically sidestep political blowback over such proposals by promising to “strengthen” or “save” those programs instead — with changes for future beneficiaries.
Deese and Young noted Tuesday that the Republican Study Committee, a policy-focused group of House lawmakers, last year proposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare through higher eligibility ages and reduced benefits for some recipients.
McCarthy insisted Sunday those programs should be “off the table” for now and that it was a shame congressional Democrats had refused to produce a budget.
“They won’t even negotiate,” McCarthy said on CBS. “I want to make sure we have something responsible, something that we can move forward on and something that we can balance our debt with. So I’m looking [forward to] sitting down. That’s exactly what I’ve been asking for.”
The White House is expected to submit a budget proposal to Congress in the coming weeks, as mandated by federal law. But such plans are often ignored on Capitol Hill. It’s unclear whether the divided and narrow House GOP majority will also produce a budget of its own.
Asked Monday what his message was for McCarthy ahead of their sit-down this week, Biden told reporters: “Show me your budget, I’ll show you mine.”