Biden Threatens Veto of Veterans, Agriculture Bills Over GOP Spending Cuts

Lawrence Wilson
By Lawrence Wilson
July 24, 2023Politicsshare

President Joe Biden will veto the first two appropriations bills to be voted on by the House if they reach his desk, according to White House Office of Management and Budget statements released on July 24.

The statements are a shot across the bow of the Republican-controlled House as it has begun to legislate steeper spending cuts than had been negotiated by the president and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just weeks ago, ending a months-long standoff over increasing the nation’s debt ceiling.

The bipartisan deal was codified in the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, which reduced nondefense discretionary spending to 2022 levels and capped spending increases at 1 percent annually for 10 years.

The bills in question are H.R. 4366, which authorizes spending on military construction, Veterans Affairs, and related agencies, and H.R. 4368, which covers agriculture, rural development, the Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies.

House Speaker Kevin Mccarthy Holds News Conference
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) speaks to the media during a briefing in National Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington on July 17, 2023. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The bills threaten Mr. Biden’s signature legislative achievements, and the White House stated that they reduce government services important to the public.

“House Republicans had an opportunity to engage in a productive, bipartisan appropriations process, but instead, with just over two months before the end of the fiscal year, are wasting time with partisan bills that cut domestic spending to levels well below the [Fiscal Responsibility Act] FRA agreement and endanger critical services for the American people,” the July 24 statements read.

“If the President were presented with H.R. 4366, he would veto it,” one statement reads.

The other included identical language regarding H.R. 4368.

In-House Debates

Since negotiating the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Mr. McCarthy has faced increasing pressure from a group of the most conservative House Republicans, who have said that the deal didn’t go far enough to cut spending.

Twenty-one House Republicans wrote to Mr. McCarthy announcing that they wouldn’t vote to approve spending bills at the levels indicated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

“We plan to vote against any appropriations bills designed to achieve the approximately $1.586 trillion top-line level—roughly equal to the spending caps agreed to with President Biden in the debt ceiling deal and representing a mere 1 percent reduction from Democrats’ egregious post-COVID spending level,” the signers, led by Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) said on July 10.

Republicans hold a narrow majority in the lower chamber, so the threat by a sizable number of Republican hardliners significantly complicates Mr. McCarthy’s task in guiding the House to approve 12 appropriations bills to fund the federal government in the next fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

A provision in the Fiscal Responsibility Act mandates an across-the-board federal spending cut of 1 percent if not all bills are passed by the end of the year, an outcome nearly all lawmakers are eager to avoid.

Ceiling or Floor

The House Republican Study Committee, the largest caucus of House Republicans, released a 2024 budget proposal on June 14 that would set nondefense discretionary spending at 2022 levels as originally proposed by Republicans.

NTD Photo
House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) speaks during a press conference in Washington on March 10, 2023. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) later said she would move 2024 bills through the House Appropriations Committee at 2022 levels, apparently drawing a hard line on spending.

That poses no conflict with the Fiscal Responsibility Act, according to Rep. Ben Cline (R-Va.), because the spending levels that Mr. McCarthy agreed to were maximums, not minimums.

“If the appropriations committee chooses to spend less than those ceilings, that’s completely within the framework,” Mr. Cline, who chairs the RSC budget task force, said.

Democrats have said otherwise.

“At the end of the day, any spending agreement that is arrived at by the end of the year has to be consistent with the resolution of the [debt] default crisis. Otherwise, what was it all for?” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said on June 15.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), during a CNN interview on June 15, said, “We had a very clear, negotiated compromise with the president of the United States and the Speaker of the House. And now they have just walked away from this deal.”

Protecting Administration Priorities

The president’s veto threat aims to avoid two outcomes: cuts to social programs and rollbacks to legislation that fund his major initiatives.

“The agreement [with Mr. McCarthy] held spending for non-defense programs roughly flat with FY 2023 levels, a compromise that protected vital programs Americans rely on from draconian cuts House Republicans proposed. The agreement also protected historic legislative accomplishments from the past two years, including the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), Honoring our PACT Act of 2022, CHIPS and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law),” the July 24 White House statements read.

The spending levels proposed in H.R. 4366 and H.R. 4368 would scale back the president’s climate change and clean energy programs and reduce spending on nutrition programs, law enforcement, education, consumer safety, and health care, according to the White House.

More Wrangling Ahead

Mr. Biden’s threat is further evidence that Democrats are willing to contest the terms of the next federal budget, and hardline Republicans likely will too.

“The proposed changes to the spending bills will probably shift what might’ve been a low-acrimony affair into a slugfest,” Peter C. Earle of the American Institute for Economic Research told The Epoch Times.

And that elevates the possibility of a government shutdown this fall.

“There are still 10 more bills to pass after these two,” he said. “An autumn 2023 partial shutdown of the government is a distinct possibility.”

Lawmakers are expected to vote this week on the two bills.

From The Epoch Times

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