It might shock the voting public to hear this coming from a Democrat, but I support responsible reductions in government spending and borrowing. I have always said: Budgeting is the science of priorities.
But what congressional Republicans have proposed in recent weeks cuts bone deep, could lead to a potential default on our loans and will not put us on the path to economic stability. Theirs is a budget not of prosperity, but a budget of revenge, seeking to undo any progress achieved by Democrats during the past two years.
I am a 12-year member of the House Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for crafting the dozen annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government. Last week, Republicans on my committee released their first batch of bills for fiscal 2024, providing a clearer picture of how their approach will impact the American people. Because Republicans have taken cuts to defense, certain veterans’ programs and border control off the table, the result is akin to a 30% across-the-board reduction to everything else, including education, public safety, public health and more.
Here in Maryland, the proposal would mean a $1.2 billion reduction in federal grants. Cuts would result in 140 fewer rail safety inspections — at a time when train derailments are wreaking havoc in other communities across the country. They would eliminate 6,400 preschool and child care slots, undermining our efforts to support working parents. They would exacerbate Social Security and Medicare wait times for 1.1 million Maryland seniors and people with disabilities. More than 1,300 Marylanders suffering from opioid addiction would lose life-saving treatment. The cuts would reduce Pell Grants by $1,400 and eliminate them altogether for 1,800 Maryland students. They would cancel loans for distressed Maryland farmers.
I could go on and on. In fact, the proposed cuts are so unpalatable that Republicans might not even have the votes to pass them. Our committee was scheduled to begin marking up four of our funding bills this week. Markups are marathon debate sessions that end in the vote necessary to advance the bills from committee to the full House of Representatives for passage. At the last minute, our markups were cancelled when it became clear that support from Republican committee members was insufficient.
Perhaps it’s harder than they thought to defend funding bills that renege on our promise to take care of veterans exposed to Agent Orange and burn pits, that leave us exposed to fentanyl trafficking, that will pull teachers out of classrooms and police off the streets. They pursue this while wasting money on a boondoggle border wall that has already been breached more than 3,000 times.
It’s not clear whether we will be able to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills if they include the draconian cuts as currently proposed. And it’s not clear we can avoid a catastrophic default if Republicans continue to recklessly condition a debt ceiling increase on ideologically extreme concessions.
I support a clean debt ceiling increase to protect our country’s full faith and credit. Congress did this three times during the previous administration because Democrats and Republicans alike know that defaulting on our debt — accrued by Congresses and presidents of both parties — would double unemployment and crash the stock market.
Working with President Biden, Congress has already achieved historic deficit reduction, and the president’s most recent budget reduces it by another $3 trillion. We can build on this progress while still investing responsibly in priorities such as child care, health care, education and infrastructure with reasonable spending bills.
I hope both parties can work together constructively, and quickly, to keep the house of cards from crumbling.
U.S. Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger represents Maryland’s 2nd District. He is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.