Here are the spending cuts Republicans have pitched in debt limit talks

President Biden ripped Republicans during his State of the Union address for efforts to use the nation’s debt ceiling as leverage to extract spending cuts from Democrats.

“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage, I get it, unless I agree to their economic plans,” Biden said Tuesday night as the White House gears up for a budget battle with House Republicans

“Next month when I offer my fiscal plan, I ask my Republican friends to lay down their plan as well. I really mean it.”

GOP lawmakers have yet to unify around a specific plan to cut spending and reduce the debt in exchange for lifting the borrowing limit. With just four months until the Treasury Department could run out of ways to stave off a default, time is running down for Republicans to find common ground among each other, let alone Democrats.

Budget caps

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has voiced support for limits on new discretionary funding, after he agreed to work toward a balanced budget in 10 years as part of the concessions he made with GOP rebels to secure the Speakership gavel last month.

Many Republicans have looked to nondefense programs as a way to trim expenditures and capping spending other than Social Security and Medicare at fiscal 2023 levels.

“The Speaker has indicated his commitment to what we’ve all agreed to fighting to make sure that we restrict spending,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), among the loudest conservatives pressing for steep cuts, told The Hill.

“He’s been pretty clear about needing caps, and we’re going to cap 2024 spending.”

But there have been concerns among Republicans amid talks of budget caps over how it could impact defense spending, which makes up much of what the government spends outside of entitlement programs.

Work requirements

There has been some early chatter around work requirements for safety net programs, specifically Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Semafor that he has begun “socializing” a pitch to other Republicans that involves work requirements for Medicaid.

Others have expressed openness to the idea.

“I think, generally, able-bodied people that don’t have small kids and meet all the criteria should be seeking work,” Rep. Don Bacon (Neb.), a GOP moderate, told The Hill, saying he was open to the idea.

Gaetz also led a group of five conservatives — Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Lauren Boebert (Colo.) and Norman — in a letter to Biden ahead of his address on Tuesday, urging “structural reforms” for SNAP to cut spending amid talks.

Both pitches are unlikely to head anywhere in the Democratic-led Senate. 

COVID-19 relief funds

Some Republicans are looking to take back unspent COVID-19 pandemic relief funds from state governments as they plot their next steps in talks.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chair of the House Rules Committee, told NBC News that the idea “ought to be on the table,” and “certainly could” fit in whatever legislative deal Republicans hope to strike with Democrats in the coming months. 

But some Republicans are concerned that they could face legal hurdles and opposition from Democratic lawmakers, who are less willing to claw back the money.


Biden took aim Tuesday at Republicans for proposed reforms to programs like Social Security and Medicare, accusing some of wanting to cut the programs in remarks that prompted immediate GOP pushback.

“Some Republicans want Social Security and Medicare to sunset,” Biden said to jeers from Republicans. The president appeared to be referring to a proposal by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) to sunset all federal legislation after five years.

Not long after Biden’s remarks on Tuesday, Scott addressed the president’s comments, calling him confused while doubling down on his proposal, which some top Republicans distanced themselves from last year.

“In my plan, I suggested the following: All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again,” Scott said.

The exchange comes as Republican leaders have sought to quell concerns that GOP lawmakers will target Social Security and Medicare in debt ceiling negotiations, which McCarthy has personally ruled out.

Tags Biden Chip Roy Don Bacon Kevin McCarthy Matt Gaetz

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