“If Republicans take over Congress, they plan to hold the government hostage and ransom our future,” said one climate advocate.
In addition to threatening cuts to Social Security and Medicare, congressional Republicans are reportedly plotting to use the debt ceiling and an end-of-year clash over government funding to target popular climate investments approved in August as part of the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that “while some Republicans do favor brinkmanship over Medicare and Social Security… some aides and analysts think the GOP may be more likely to demand changes to other Democratic priorities.”
“GOP leaders have discussed using the debt limit and government shutdown fights to press for cuts to clean energy spending,” the Post noted. “Republicans are also eyeing demands for the administration to slow or reverse its plans to ramp up Internal Revenue Service enforcement of the nation’s tax laws, although the GOP planning is preliminary and expected to evolve.”
Allying with the oil and gas lobby, Republicans in the House and Senate unanimously opposed the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes nearly $370 billion in climate investments aimed at helping the U.S. transition to renewable energy and meet its emission-reduction targets.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who is hoping to take the majority gavel next year, derided the historic investments as “green boondoggles” while House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called them “socialist scams.”
In recent weeks, Republicans have openly floated the idea of using a fight over the federal borrowing limit—which must be raised to prevent a disastrous default—as leverage to secure concessions from Democrats, including Social Security and Medicare cuts.
Another potential opportunity for Republicans could come in mid-December, when a recently passed government funding bill is set to expire.
Top Republicans, including McCarthy, have made clear that they intend to take advantage of those opportunities if they win control of the House or the Senate in the November 8 midterms.
“If Republicans take over Congress, they plan to hold the government hostage and ransom our future,” warned Dave Willett, a spokesperson for League of Conservation Voters.
Top republicans not mincing words: they will absolutely use the debt ceiling to bring the economy to the brink of total collapse.
— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) October 25, 2022
It’s not clear which specific green energy provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act the GOP intends to target. E&E News reported last month that “some are eyeing provisions… like the electric vehicle tax credit” and “mineral sourcing requirements.”
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, told the outlet that he believes the GOP will “try to unwind a number of the bad policies that were enacted.”
Democrats, meanwhile, are facing growing pressure to diffuse GOP threats by either raising or eliminating the debt ceiling, an arbitrary restriction on the amount of money the Treasury Department can borrow to meet its obligations. The federal government is projected to reach the current $31.4 trillion borrowing limit at some point next year.
A group of House Democrats led by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is calling on the Democratic leadership to act during the upcoming lame-duck session to “permanently undo the threat posed by the debt limit.”
The Post noted Tuesday that “some Democrats have advanced legislation to effectively eliminate the debt ceiling by raising it to an impossibly high number, such as googolplex.”
“Using the budget process known as reconciliation would make that move possible with only Democratic votes, bypassing a GOP filibuster in the Senate, but Biden’s opposition appears to at least for now have put an end to those efforts, which would likely face opposition from centrist Democrats,” the newspaper added.
During a speech late last week, Biden warned that Republicans are “determined to hold the economy hostage” to secure Social Security and Medicare cuts.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, said in an interview Sunday that he too opposes repealing the debt limit entirely but stressed the importance of lifting the ceiling to avert economic disaster.
“You have to increase the debt ceiling,” Sanders told CNN‘s Jake Tapper. “What Republicans are basically doing—and I hope everybody understands this—they are saying, ‘Look, we are prepared to let the United States default on its debt, not raise the debt ceiling, unless you talk about making cuts.'”
“You know what they’re talking about? Cuts in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,” Sanders added. “Is that irresponsible? It is absolutely irresponsible. You don’t use the debt ceiling to do that.”