House Republicans seek budget cuts harmful to many Black Americans as government shutdown looms
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
Far-right Republicans in the U.S. House are seeking cruel and savage cuts to programs that disproportionately benefit Black Americans and low-income Americans, and seem likely to force the federal government to shut down Sunday to press their demands.
Some 17.1% of Black American families live in poverty, compared with just 8.6% of white and Asian-American families. As a result, Black people would be hit especially hard by the proposed House Republican spending cuts, which are focused on programs to aid people with low incomes. Also hard hit would be Hispanic families, who have a 16.9% poverty rate, and Native Americans, with a 25% poverty rate.
The Republican MAGA extremists putting vital programs on the chopping block in the House are following the orders of former President Donald Trump. He wrote on his social media site this week that they should make no compromises with mainstream Republicans and Democrats.
Trump instructed Republican House members in his social media post: “UNLESS YOU GET EVERYTHING, SHUT IT DOWN!” And even though he is the one calling for a harmful and pointless government shutdown, Trump cynically wrote: “Whoever is President will be blamed.”
In contrast, President Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., both urged House Republicans to fund the government to avoid the disastrous impacts of a government shutdown.
Of course, if every side in congressional disputes demanded they get everything they wanted, Congress would be permanently deadlocked and get almost nothing done. Without compromise, our government would be paralyzed.
Compromise used to be considered praiseworthy in politics. When Henry Clay was House speaker in the early 1800s, he was called “the great compromiser” as a compliment to his negotiating and deal-making skills. Many lawmakers and presidents up through recent times have also been praised for hammering out legislative compromises. But in today’s Republican Party, calling someone a compromiser is an insult and can lead to defeat in GOP primaries.
Unfortunately, rather than considering themselves public servants, the MAGA House Republicans prioritize serving Trump over their own constituents. Instead of focusing on governing, they are focused on attacking whoever Trump denounces.
The House Republicans majority have become the Chaos Caucus and the Anti-Government Party. Putting them in positions of power in government is like putting atheists in charge of a church — they’re hostile to the basic mission of the institution they ostensibly serve.
The destructive cuts in the social safety net programs that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is now supporting to try to appease his most extreme MAGA Republican members include:
- Denying food assistance payments to more than 1 million low-income mothers and their children under age 5. This would quite literally take food out of the mouths of babies.
- Slashing housing subsidies for poor families by one-third. A rise in homelessness would be inevitable.
- Cutting aid that helps poor families pay their home heating bills by more than 70%. The Biden administration won congressional approval a year ago to spend $4.5 billion on the program to aid over 5 million poor families.
- An 80% cut in funding for public schools that serve large numbers of low-income students. This would make it harder for such students to get a good education that would help them work their way into the middle class and higher.
- Cutting over $150 billion annually from programs that help fund child care, education subsidies, college scholarships, medical research and hundreds more vital programs.
It’s outrageous that rather than raising taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations to reduce the federal deficit, House Republicans are demanding that low-income Americans bear the brunt of the burden of deficit reduction.
President Biden reached an agreement in June with Speaker McCarthy and congressional Republicans to limit nondefense discretionary spending (excluding Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs) in the 2024 fiscal year to the 2023 level of about $1.6 trillion. This amounted to a budget cut because spending wasn’t increased to make up for the reduced value of the dollar due to inflation.
But while Republicans in the Senate are joining with Democrats to support spending at the level House Republicans previously agreed to, McCarthy has caved to the demands for huge spending cuts by the most extreme members of his party in an effort to win their support to prevent a government shutdown and dissuade them from trying to oust him as speaker.
Yet, even the proposed massive new cuts in programs for Americans in need described above haven’t persuaded the Republican extremists to keep the government running after the current fiscal year ends Sunday morning. They want additional concessions, including an end to U.S. aid to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia’s illegal war of aggression.
A civil war is raging in the Republican Party today, pitting traditional conservatives who are willing to compromise and believe in limited government against the Trump-loving extremists who believe in whatever radical policies and lies Trump peddles.
The traditional Republicans are dominant in the Senate, under the leadership of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. But in the House, the relatively small number of MAGA extremists are the tail wagging the dog, kneecapping the Republican majority under the weak and ineffectual leadership of Speaker McCarthy.
Trump makes no secret of his view of McConnell. In his social media post cited above, he called McConnell “the weakest, dumbest and most-conflicted ‘Leader’ in U.S. Senate history.”
Should Trump succeed in his effort to be elected president in 2024, we can be sure he’ll pursue the massive cuts in social safety net spending embraced by his MAGA followers in the House, dealing a terrible blow to low-income Americans — many of them Black — striving to escape poverty and achieve the American dream. That would be tragic.
Donna Brazile is a veteran political strategist, Senior Advisor at Purple Strategies, New York Times bestselling author, Chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, and sought-after Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning media contributor to such outlets as ABC News, USA Today and TheGrio. She previously served as interim Chair of the Democratic National Committee and of the DNC’s Voting Rights Institute. Donna was the first Black American to serve as the manager of a major-party presidential campaign, running the campaign of Vice President Al Gore in 2000. She serves as an adjunct professor in the Women and Gender Studies Department at Georgetown University and served as the King Endowed Chair in Public Policy at Howard University and as a fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School. She has lectured at nearly 250 colleges and universities on diversity, equity and inclusion; women in leadership; and restoring civility in American politics.
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