House Republicans plan to follow up Obamacare repeal with $400 billion in safety net cuts

Source: AP
Source: AP

Republicans in Congress, under pressure to fund massive tax cuts and increases in military spending, are looking to slash more than $400 billion from the federal budget next year — and social safety net programs like food stamps and housing assistance are on the butcher's block, Politico reported.

According to Politico, "multiple sources" confirmed "food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits" are all slated for massive cuts. House Republicans have committed to passing a balanced budget but are nonetheless under pressure to fund both longstanding conservative goals like a massive cut to the corporate tax rate as well as some of President Donald Trump's priorities, like an infrastructure bill or his pledge to build a wall on the Mexican borders.

Though the House recently managed to put together a package to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, all but $150 billions of the savings it found were sucked up by the bill's nearly $1 trillion in tax cuts over 10 years.

House leadership hopes to pass the budget cuts through reconciliation, a process that would allow them to pass the budget in the Senate with straight 51-vote majority and no threat of a Democratic filibuster.

The budget proposal will also likely include House Speaker Paul Ryan's pet project to privatize Medicare, but in a largely symbolic capacity. So far Trump has refused to let Republicans touch programs like Medicare and Social Security, but his own White House budget director Mick Mulvaney "has tried to convince the president of the merits of such reforms," Politico reported.

The $400 billion cuts would represent one of the most dramatic changes to federal spending priorities in modern political history, and a major success for conservatives who have demanded huge budget cuts for decades — but the GOP would be taking a huge political risk if the plan ever comes to fruition. The Obamacare repeal plan is already spooking Senate moderates who are worried the bill's $880 billion in Medicaid cuts and projected 24 million who will lose insurance under its provisions are major political liabilities just waiting to backfire.

A proposal to eviscerate large portions of the federal budget could only complicate their existing problems — like a presidency that is already tanking in the polls just months after inauguration but is too popular with Republicans to reign in. Major cuts to programs which aid the neediest Americans would also kick the floor out from millions, though it does square away with the priority which always seems foremost in Ryan's mind: cutting taxes for wealthy Americans and businesses.

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Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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