U.S. Fourth District Congressman Tom Cole said the House’s Rules Committee will open discussions Tuesday on the nation’s debt ceiling, and he predicts a fight when the issue goes the House floor the next day.
The Oklahoma Republican was explaining the issue Thursday to constituents participating in a telephone town hall. He was commenting on a proposal outlined last week by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy that supports a $1.5 trillion increase in the nation’s debt ceiling only if it is coupled with stricter spending controls. McCarthy’s proposals include returning discretionary spending to Fiscal Year 2022 levels then imposing a 1 percent limit on governing spending increases thereafter. Other proposals include returning unspent money from COVID-19 relief bills, undoing the president’s green energy tax credits, reversing $80 billion in new funding to the IRS, eliminating President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, setting new work requirements for food stamp and Medicaid recipients and opening up new areas for fossil fuel production and mining.
“There’s going to be a big fight over this,” Cole said, adding discussions will begin in his Rules Committee on Tuesday, then move to the House floor. Because he expects lengthy committee discussion, Cole predicts the full House will receive the bill Wednesday.
Cole said any proposal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling is a major issue for House members. He said while it is important the U.S. is the only nation in the world that has never defaulted on its debts, “we’ve had an explosion of borrowing in recent years.”
“Nobody wants to default on the debt,” he said, adding while McCarthy has made that point clear, Republicans remain critical of spending that they say has exploded in the last two years under the Biden Administration. “We need to change what we’re doing.”
Cole said while one proposal is to move spending back to 2022 levels. That would not be done uniformly — defense spending would be protected, for example. While some areas would be cut, he said the bill does some things to encourage growth, such as encouraging energy development. Cole also said work requirements for those receiving government assistance — 20 hours per week, 80 hours per month — are not unreasonable.
“It’s not hard to find jobs,” he said, adding the government expects those who can work to do so, and while job skills may not line up with available jobs, “they’re there.”
Cole said negotiation is going to be crucial in passing the legislation; no Democrat is going to vote for McCarthy’s proposal and the Speaker can afford to lose only four Republican votes. Cole said his opinion is that it’s time for Democrats to craft their own bill so Republican House members can sit down and negotiate. That hasn’t been happening, he said, adding McCarthy has told Biden he wants to sit down and talk, but Republicans won’t raise taxes to cover extravagant spending and expect reforms that allow Congress to make wiser and more efficient spending decisions.
“Biden is hoping Republicans in the House will cave, and that’s not going to happen,” Cole said, of an issue he expects to dominate things in Washington all weekend. “There is a lot of movement going on.”
Addressing constituent concerns about whether the ceiling should be raised, Cole said that ceiling applies to bills the government already has.
“It’s mostly about paying off bills you are accumulating,” he said, adding he agrees the nation also needs to address out-of-control spending. “We’re trying to force discussions. The proposal that the Speaker laid out this week is the start of that.”