House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) late Thursday accused Republicans of complicating the deficit-reduction talks because they want to dismantle the public sector entirely.
"Why are we where we are today?" Pelosi asked in closing remarks in the debate over the House GOP's Budget Control Act. "My belief is that the Republicans came to the table not to reduce the deficit, but to go way beyond that and to dismantle decades of progress made in a bipartisan way for America's great middle class.
"If in fact the purposes were deficit reduction, in a very strong way, we were on that path in the Biden talks, in the talks subsequent to it," she added.
Pelosi argued that Democrats were capable of reaching a deal that included some Republican ideas to cut spending, but said the bill up on the floor today, S. 627, aims to dismantle Medicare, Social Security and several other programs.
"This isn't about deficit reduction, this is about dismantling the public sector," she said. "If our purpose is reduce the deficit, we certainly can do that. If our purpose is to dismantle progress in the middle class, we won't be a party to it."
Earlier in the debate, House Budget Committee leaders sparred over the bill. Ranking member Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed with Pelosi that Republicans are looking to gut Medicare and other programs.
"This is a manufactured crisis in order to try and force and squeeze through a particular deficit-reduction plan, a deficit-reduction plan that would end the Medicare guarantee, cut education and yet protect those special-interest tax breaks and breaks for the very top," he said.
But Republicans rejected these accusations throughout the day. Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) disputed Van Hollen's charge that Republicans were trying to engineer a crisis.
"Manufactured crisis?" he said. "Who went on television to scare senior citizens that their Social Security checks might be in doubt? The President of the United States."
Ryan also said the broad numbers in the GOP bill are very close to those agreed on earlier in talks with Senate Democrats. "These were agreed to on a bipartisan basis," he said.
Soon after Pelosi spoke, the House postponed a vote on the bill. As of 6 p.m., there was no sign of when the vote might be held.