Monday, September 18, 2023
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Amid budget battle in Congress, watchdog agency projects drastic debt growth

In a report commissioned by Republican lawmakers, Congress’ independent budget watchdog said federal debt could spike roughly 70% by midcentury.

WASHINGTON (CN) — As Congress begins a fierce battle over the government’s budget, the Congressional Budget Office sent a warning to lawmakers Friday about current fiscal policy, predicting that allowing such spending habits to persist could balloon the federal deficit.

The CBO’s forecast, which came at the request of House Budget Committee chair Jodey Arrington, found that the gross federal debt would reach a figure representing 124% of U.S. gross domestic product by the end of 2023 if the government’s existing tax law and other fiscal policy remains unchanged. If left unchecked, the federal deficit could spike to roughly 192% of national GDP by 2053, the budget watchdog said.

The government’s total debt currently sits at nearly $33 trillion. Much of that debt is held by the public in the form of bonds and other securities, with the remainder made up of debt held by government accounts.

Arrington’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.

The independent watchdog report is sure to be used by Arrington and other Republicans to support their demands for significant cuts to Congress’ 2024 spending plan.

The GOP has for months been working to slash the federal budget, attempting to leverage its slim majority in the House to force the Biden administration into concessions. After a tense debt ceiling standoff in May, during which Republicans sought to force their budget demands on the White House, some lawmakers are hoping to now achieve their fiscal aims this month during budget debate.

Congressional Republicans have already accused the Biden administration of reckless spending, pointing to projections that the federal budget deficit — a figure that represents the difference between government spending and revenue — will rise to $2 trillion this year.

In addition to complaints about the size of the federal budget, some lawmakers are also chafing at the idea of passing what is known as an omnibus bill, which would combine all 12 of Congress’ individual spending plans into one measure.

“I will not vote for an omnibus bill,” said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham during a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. “I’m not ever going to do that again.”

Graham said he would back a continuing resolution, a stopgap budget bill that would keep federal appropriations at 2023 levels until December, and that he would also support supplemental funding legislation to provide relief cash for the Maui wildfires and other purposes.

“The idea of an omnibus in December is off the table for me,” Graham concluded.

With just weeks to go before the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30, the odds are increasing that Congress will need to approve a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown. Despite that, some more right-wing members of the Republican party have said that they would not support such a short-term budget patch without serious concessions from Democrats.

Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, an outspoken member of the radical House Freedom Caucus, said during an Aug. 31 speaking engagement in her home state that she would not back a government spending plan unless it, among other things, did away with all Covid-19 vaccine and mask mandates and eliminated funding for the war in Ukraine.

“I will be happy to work with all of my colleagues, I will work with the Speaker of the House … but I will not fund those things,” the lawmaker said.

Some of Greene’s demands were echoed in an Aug. 21 statement from the Freedom Caucus, which argued that a continuing resolution passed without conditions would affirm the Biden administration’s 2023 budget. Any new spending bill should return federal appropriations to pre-pandemic levels, the voting bloc said.

The Freedom Caucus has already proven to be a major thorn in the side of Republican leadership during the debt ceiling debacle early this summer, which ended in a compromise between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden. The voting bloc, displeased with the result of negotiations, voiced their anger by using a procedural measure to grind votes in the House to a halt.

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Categories / Economy, Government, National, Politics

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