White House continues Congressional GOP over possible benefit cuts for veterans

According to the White House, more than 600,000 veterans in a handful of high-profile congressional districts could be harmed by potential cuts to government programs if the House Debt Limit Act becomes law.

“If House Republicans feel remorse for the excruciating cuts they just approved for those who sacrificed for our freedom and security, the good news is there is an obvious solution: Stop holding our economy hostage and vote firmly against causing a recession,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a memo obtained by HuffPost on Saturday.

In the memo, the White House said a total of 618,960 veterans live in 18 GOP-controlled house districts, or an average of about 34,387 in each. While the memo doesn’t specifically state this, President Joe Biden won all 18 districts in the 2020 election. These districts are seen as the frontline in efforts to decide who will control the chamber after 2024.

The memo shows the White House’s determination to push the issue of veterans’ cuts as it works to hang House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s debt reduction plan around the GOP’s neck, even as Republicans try to argue that the attacks are unfair .

Districts include those represented by Rep. Don Bacon of Nebraska, George Santos of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and David Schweikert of Arizona. Of the 18 districts, 11 are located in either New York or California, reinforcing the pivotal role the two blue states will play in the struggle for control of the House of Representatives.

But the vast majority of those cuts would come from the annual funds that Congress allocates to the Pentagon, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency and other government agencies.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers can provide for defense, veterans and border security while cutting overall annual spending.
Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, said lawmakers can provide for defense, veterans and border security while cutting overall annual spending.

The bill says nothing which departments would make cuts, nor does it contain language protecting an agency, including the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Because about half of that annual pool Money usually goes to defenseThe White House calculates that if defense were protected from cuts, everything else, including veterans programs, would be cut by 22% over the next year.

“The Default on America Act would enforce extremely painful consequences for Americans who have risked everything to protect us and protect our liberties,” Bates wrote, jokingly summing up the GOP message: “I will single-handedly save millions of… Killing jobs and sending retirement accounts into a tailspin unless you let me eviscerate the VA.”

Republicans have called the estimates scaremongering.

Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which distributes annual spending, called in April: “We will take care of our national defense, take care of veterans and secure our border – all while reducing overall spend.”

Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, called Democrats use “dangerous rhetoric”.

“Put simply, they are playing politics with our veterans. Veterans are not political pawns to advance a political agenda.”

– Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), Chairman of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee

The heat over the potential cuts illustrates the political power of the veterans’ issue. With just a five-seat Republican lead, Democrats are looking to retake control of the House after performing much better than expected in 2022.

The memo comes ahead of a high-level meeting scheduled for Tuesday between Biden and party leaders in each chamber of Congress. As the number of days lawmakers will be in Washington before June dwindles, each side is hoping the other will blink with some reason for optimism.

Axios reports Saturday that Moderate House Republicans ‘angry’ about being able to push through a compromise law once the first phase of negotiations is completed. And NBC News reports Friday that The White House is considering offering a short-term debt ceiling extension to reduce time pressure and to minimize the economic risk of fear of default on the financial markets.

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