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Amid debt standoff, top Dem on House spending panel blasts budget bill holding pattern

Rosa DeLauro accused her Republican colleagues of using the threat of default as a fig leaf to avoid debate on a package of budget counteroffers.

WASHINGTON (CN) —The top Democrat on the House’s appropriations committee called out the panel’s GOP leadership on Tuesday as congressional Republicans and the White House struggle to reach a deal to avoid an impending debt crisis.

Although the House Committee on Appropriations was scheduled this week to debate a package of four bills brought forward by Republicans as a counteroffer to the Biden administration’s budget request for the 2024 fiscal year, panel Chair Kay Granger announced Monday that meetings to consider that legislation had been called off, citing the ongoing partisan sparring over the debt ceiling.

“Given recent developments in the negotiations between Speaker McCarthy and the President, and in order to give the Speaker maximum flexibility as talks continue, the Committee will postpone this week’s markups,” the Texas Republican said in a statement.

Connecticut Representative Rosa DeLauro, Granger’s Democratic counterpart on the Appropriations Committee, said Tuesday that she wasn’t buying it.

“This is not, as [Republicans] have said, due to debt ceiling negotiations,” DeLauro wrote in her own statement. The lawmaker instead accused the GOP of delaying the budget debate while they attempt to whip the votes needed to get their proposed spending cuts through the House.

“Before we stepped foot in the Committee room, their house of cards has crumbled,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote. “It is not clear that they will be able to pass any of the 12 appropriations bills on the House floor if they include the harmful cuts they are proposing.”

The group of budget bills that were set for debate in the Appropriations Committee this week included spending figures for the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security and Agriculture.

Among the government spending on the chopping block in the Veterans Affairs measure — which had been scheduled for a markup on Tuesday — Republicans slashed funds for implementing the White House’s diversity, equity and inclusion executive orders and proposed doing away with the VA’s public affairs office in response to what they called “politically motivated press releases making false claims about budget cuts.”

Democrats have expressed particular concern about a provision in the Republican budget plan that would cut around $14 billion from the federal Toxic Exposures Fund, a government-stewarded account used to expand benefits for veterans exposed to cancer-causing burn pits and Agent Orange herbicide.

DeLauro argued that the GOP spending bills held over were the “easy ones,” and Republicans’ further proposals would offer even more drastic budget cuts.

The lawmaker also urged her GOP colleagues to stake out a more bipartisan position on the budget, contending that both Republicans and Democrats would need to co-sign a spending plan to get it through the House. “I hope we can soon move forward with serious bipartisan, bicameral conversations about 2024 funding bills,” DeLauro wrote.

A spokesperson for Granger, the Appropriations Committee chair, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Partisan sparring over the 2024 budget comes as Republicans and the White House remain at an impasse over the debt ceiling, the federal government’s self-imposed spending limit reached in January. Negotiations between the Biden administration and Speaker Kevin McCarthy have yet to result in a deal, with Republicans firm on demands that the debt ceiling be raised only in conjunction with significant spending cuts.

The White House had for months refused to negotiate on budget concessions, accusing the GOP of holding the economy hostage. Although it has come to the table in recent weeks, it has said that Republican proposals have become increasingly more radical.

A sense of urgency clouds the debt ceiling debate: The Treasury Department has predicted that the U.S. could default on its loans without a limit increase as soon as June 1. A first-ever national default would inflict serious economic harm on the country and damage its international credibility. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen urged lawmakers last week to come to a consensus, arguing that dragging the process out is also doing harm to the U.S. economic outlook.

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