Biden agencies calculate impact of planned GOP budget cuts
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Democrat of Connecticut, worked with the administration to outline the disaster that the Republican budget would impose on the country. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON—Ducking Democratic President Joe Biden’s dare, so far, the U.S. House’s ruling Republicans haven’t unveiled when and where they want to cut the federal budget—other than two options: A government-wide 22% cut or roll its spending in fiscal 2024, which starts Oct. 1, back to fiscal 2022 levels.

So, in response to that bare-bones statement from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and his team, the Biden administration has stepped into the breach, by taking those two proposals, comparing them to the president’s fiscal 2024 budget, and forecasting the practical impact.

The results, contained in a series of letters from the government relations offices of every major cabinet department—including Labor, Education, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs are drastic. They’re also posted on the House Appropriations Committee’s minority (Democratic) website. Among them:

  • Some one million senior citizens who now depend on Meals on Wheels wouldn’t get them.
  • 200,000 kids would lose access to Head Start, the agencies told Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., the top Democrat—and in the last Congress, chair—of the committee. Child care would be denied to 100,000 more. And 1.2 million women, infants, and children would lose their special feeding program because the money would run out first.
  • Air traffic would get snarled as 125 control towers would have to shut down following a 22% cut in Federal Aviation Administration funds.
  • Rail and road safety highlight the news, after the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern freight train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio, released noxious chemicals into the air and water and after an out-of-control speeder on the Baltimore Beltway barreled into another car, then through a road construction site, killing six workers. Yet the 22% cut in DOT’s budget would cut off 11,000 fewer rail safety inspection days alone, covering 30,000 miles of track.
  • Federal low-income housing “Section 8” vouchers would suffer a 22% cut—and 430,000 families would be out on the street. Another 640,000 families would lose rental aid.
  • With mass shootings practically a weekly occurrence, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms—a favorite target of the gun lobby and its allies—would have to furlough all 5,000 workers for 36 days, after it loses 190 agents, 130 industry Investigators, and 180 technical and support staff to attrition.

The Republican cuts would also hack at smaller agencies whom DeLauro didn’t ask about. The National Labor Relations Board is a prime example. Biden wants to give it $376 million next fiscal year, 25% more than this year, with 1,466 workers to pursue labor law-breakers. The 2022 level is $102 million less–$274 million, the NLRB’s frozen level from 2014-2022. It pays for 1,212 workers.

DeLauro’s letters and the agencies’ responses, category by category and component by component, are part of the budget battle Biden will wage against McCarthy and the Republicans through this year and beyond.

That’s not to say McCarthy will achieve all the cuts across the board the letters forecast. For example, the military forecasts that a 22% cut would cost $100 billion—the same amount the Congressional Progressive Caucus wants to trim from the Pentagon.

“This is a never-ending cycle of increased funds without accountability,” says Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramilla Jayapal, D-Wash., of Biden’s blueprint for the military. “It would be a new record for the defense budget, following a year when the Pentagon failed its fifth consecutive audit.

“There is simply no reason for taxpayers to continue to pay for outrageously high budgets rife with waste, fraud, and abuse. A recent study” by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office “confirmed the Pentagon could cut $100 billion per year without compromising on national defense. This is long overdue.”

But majorities of both parties show no inclination to cut the $842 billion in military spending that Biden proposes–not counting extra aid later this year to Ukraine. Indeed, for this fiscal year, Congress gave Biden more money than he sought for the troops, ships, planes, missiles, and marines. The Republicans were especially gung-ho about that hike.

Conversely, the Republicans have for years campaigned for the total elimination of family planning money. Their convenient target: Planned Parenthood.

Title X, the federal law that doles out funds for family planning—including funding for Planned Parenthood—got $286.5 million for the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Biden proposed an increase. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee which helps dole out the money, flatly opposes any money at all for Planned Parenthood.

“This budget, and its proposals, do not operate in reality,” said Aderholt of Biden’s proposal.

Some of the other specifics, gleaned from responses to DeLauro’s letters:

  • A 22% budget cut at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) would reduce its workforce to a level unseen since the agency’s founding in 1970 and reduce the number of inspections by 10,800. OSHA “would be less able to undertake complex inspections, designed to protect workers against chemical exposure, heat-related collapses, musculoskeletal injuries, and workplace violence,” DOL officials told DeLauro.

That would let “unscrupulous employers put more workers in danger under a weaker, more predictable and less strategic OSHA,” they added.

Biden proposed a 5.2% raise for the year starting Oct. 1 for the government’s two million workers, not counting add-ons for high-cost areas such as New York and San Francisco. The Government Employees (AFGE), the largest union for federal workers, seeks 8.7%. Though AFGE President Everett Kelley noted Biden’s hike is the largest presidentially proposed pay raise since 1980, “it is not enough. More must be done to make serious progress in closing the double-digit pay gap between federal employees and their private-sector counterparts.”

We hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, please support great working-class and pro-people journalism by donating to People’s World.

We are not neutral. Our mission is to be a voice for truth, democracy, the environment, and socialism. We believe in people before profits. So, we take sides. Yours!

We are part of the pro-democracy media contesting the vast right-wing media propaganda ecosystem brainwashing tens of millions and putting democracy at risk.

Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader supported. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all.

But we need your help. It takes money—a lot of it—to produce and cover unique stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.