WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a bill that would cut billions in federal spending and roll back some of President Biden’s policy priorities in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling for one year.
After trying and failing to coalesce lawmakers around a budget blueprint of their own, Republican leaders have instead framed the legislation as an opening offer to Democrats and a way to get the White House to come to the negotiating table. Mr. Biden has insisted that Republicans raise the debt limit without any conditions and said that he would not meet with them to discuss spending cuts until they passed their own fiscal plan.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would put the new legislation, which Republicans claim would save the nation $4.5 trillion, to a vote next week. Negotiations have so far been frozen, and time is running short: The United States, which has already hit a $31.4 trillion cap on how much money it can borrow, could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June.
That could have catastrophic effects, potentially leading to a global financial crisis and a painful recession in the United States.
While the two sides could soon begin talks, Mr. Biden is unlikely to accept few, if any, of Mr. McCarthy’s proposals. Here is a look at what is in the bill.
Rescind unspent Covid-19 relief funds
Republicans proposed rescinding pandemic relief funds that have not yet been spent, which they estimated would return about $50 billion to $60 billion to the government’s coffers.
In 2020 and 2021, Congress approved about $4.6 trillion in stimulus funding, which was intended to help the country recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Most of that money has been spent. But there is some leftover funding for programs that provide grants to health care providers, medical care for veterans, pension benefits and aid for public transit agencies. Some of the programs have unspent money because applications are still open or their funds do not expire until next year. Others, including one devised to help aircraft manufacturers pay for compensation costs, are not expected to use all of their allotted funds.
Biden administration officials have pushed back on the effort, since they expect a majority of unspent relief funds to be used before they expire.
Cap spending to fiscal 2022 levels
House Republicans have long complained that federal spending is out of control, and the conference began the year with the aspiration of balancing the budget in 10 years. But that would require deep spending cuts to popular federal programs, something G.O.P. leaders have been unable to coalesce their conference around. The bill instead aims to assuage conservatives by proposing freezing spending to last year’s levels.
That would effectively force budget cuts. As costs of government programs rise with inflation over time, lawmakers would have to cut some programs to stay under the cap. That would require Republicans to identify spending cuts totaling $3.6 trillion over a decade, by their own calculations, and this bill does not outline them. Instead, House Republican leaders are punting those decisions to the Appropriations Committee.
One fight appropriators will have to resolve is how to balance the cuts between defense-related spending and spending on other domestic programs, like environmental protection and education. House Republicans in particular have been loathe to adopt any cuts to military spending, but leaving those budgets intact would require steeper cuts to other programs.
Democrats have sought to make that part of the proposal politically toxic. “Every House Republican who votes for this bill is voting to cut education, veterans medical care, cancer research, Meals on Wheels, food safety and law enforcement,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, said in a release on Thursday morning.
Even if Republicans succeeded in imposing the caps, there is no guarantee they would produce anywhere close to the promised savings. Lawmakers in the future could simply vote to ignore them, as they did frequently with the spending caps that President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans agreed on to avoid a debt default in 2011.
Roll back some of the Biden administration’s climate measures
The bill would undo major parts of the Biden administration’s landmark health, climate and tax law, which Democrats passed last year and named the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans proposed repealing an array of energy tax credits in the law that aim to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including those that incentivize the use of previously owned electric vehicles and the production of clean electricity and fuel. Republican lawmakers claim the move would save about $271 billion to $1.2 trillion.
The Republican plan also includes proposals in a separate energy bill that House G.O.P. lawmakers passed last month to bolster domestic energy production. Although that bill has not passed the Democratic-controlled Senate, it includes provisions that would expand mining and fossil fuel production in the country and speed up the construction of necessary infrastructure by reforming a permitting process that can take up to five years.
Claw back funding from the Internal Revenue Service
Republicans also vowed to “defund Biden’s I.R.S. army” by rescinding the bulk of new funding that the tax collection agency was given to improve customer service and crack down on tax cheats.
The Inflation Reduction Act approved $80 billion in additional funding for the I.R.S., which has been struggling to deal with backlogs of tax filings and answer taxpayer calls because of declining resources over the years.
The funding has come under intense scrutiny from conservatives, who claim that they will be used to increase audit rates for average taxpayers. I.R.S. officials have reiterated that they will not raise audit rates above “historical levels” for taxpayers who earn less than $400,000 a year and will focus on increasing compliance among large corporations and wealthy people.
Cutting that spending would actually add to federal deficits, the Congressional Budget Office estimated. That’s because the money is projected to help the I.R.S. crack down on taxpayers who do not pay what they owe — bringing in an estimated $200 billion in new revenue over a decade. That revenue would be lost if the funding is taken away.
Impose stricter work requirements for food stamp and Medicaid recipients
The proposal would enact more stringent work requirements for recipients of food stamps and Medicaid benefits, which Republicans claim would help attract more people to the work force and save about $110 billion to $120 billion. Republican leaders backed down from pursuing more drastic requirements after lawmakers who are facing challenging re-election battles in swing districts raised concerns.
The measure would make able-bodied adults without dependents who receive both federal food assistance and Medicaid benefits subject to work requirements until they are 55 years old, raising the current age from 49. It also seeks to close a loophole Republicans have claimed that states abuse, which allows officials to exempt food assistance recipients from work requirements.
Block student loan forgiveness
The bill would repeal the Biden administration’s actions to forgive up to $20,000 in student loan debt for millions of borrowers making under $125,000 a year. The move would wipe out more than $400 billion in debt, although the Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared to be deeply skeptical of the legality of the plan ahead of an expected ruling by June.
Republicans would also block a second student-loan change the Education Department has announced, which would reduce payments for future borrowers who go on to earn relatively low incomes after college. The department has estimated that plan would cost more than $100 billion over a decade, though the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model pegs the cost at about $350 billion.
Raise the debt limit through March 2024
In exchange for the spending cuts and policy changes, Republicans would raise a statutory cap on how much the United States can borrow through March 2024, or until the nation’s debt grows to $32.9 trillion.
That length of extension would be much shorter than Mr. Biden would prefer, guaranteeing another economy-rattling showdown as the presidential campaign heats up next year.
The United States could default on its debt if both parties fail to reach an agreement. That could potentially lead to a financial crisis, damaging economic output and causing a deep recession if the country is unable to pay all its bills on time. The country might not be able to afford salaries for federal workers or Social Security checks, among other things. A debt default could also have global repercussions and destabilize bond markets across the world, since U.S. Treasury bonds are typically seen as one of the safest investments.