Radical Right Republican Freedom Caucus plan: Kill OSHA
Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., is the Freedom Caucus ring leader pushing to kill OSHA. | AP

WASHINGTON—If you think the House Republicans’ debt limit hike-budget cut bill was bad, brace yourself. Take a look at what the Freedom Caucus, the radical Rrght tail that wags the Republican dog, wants to do. The starkest way to present their stand is to quote their legislation:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts authorized or otherwise made available to the Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, for fiscal year 2024, shall not exceed $0.”

Yes, you read that right: The House Freedom Caucus wants to kill the Occupational Safety and Health Administration as of October 1. The last time the corporate community tried that, an internet check shows, was 1995. It failed.

Now the capitalists settle for trying to turn OSHA into a consultative agency, converting its inspections and enforcement into “advice.” And when OSHA does issue a rule, after years of delay, to force businesses to protect their workers from hazards, the corporate interests tie it up in court.

In the most-extreme example, they convinced the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court majority to invalidate OSHA’s rule protecting workers against the coronavirus.

Biden administration Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen may have given the radical rightists even more leverage than they already possess. She announced on May 1 that a U.S. default on its debts could occur as soon as June 1. Raising the federal debt limit prevents that.  McCarthy yokes that increase to his spending cut scheme.

The default, which the Freedom Caucus threatens to invoke, would throw the economy into a depression, immediately costing 870,000 jobs, Biden has said. Other estimates double or triple that figure. And it would mean the U.S. can’t pay its past bills.

One Freedom Caucus cut: No OSHA at all. Their point man is Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. This isn’t the first time he’s tried that stunt. He did so in November 2021, too. His bill went nowhere.

“OSHA’s existence is yet another example of the federal government creating agencies to address issues that are more appropriately handled by state governments and private employers,” Biggs said then. “Arizona, and every other state, has the constitutional right to establish and implement their own health and safety measures, and is more than capable of doing so.

“It’s time we fight back against the bloated federal government and eliminate agencies that never should have been established in the first place. I will not let OSHA push Arizona around with their bureaucratic regulations and urge my colleagues to support my effort to eliminate this unconstitutional federal agency.”

This time, his legislation, HR1942, went to the ideologically polarized Republican-run House Education and the Workforce Committee, chaired by union hater Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C.  No hearings have been scheduled yet.

And the OSHA cut—and 100 other cuts Biggs proposed—is written so he could offer it as an amendment when the full House, later this year, debates the money bill for the Labor Department, the NLRB, the departments of Education, and Health and Human Services, and related agencies.

All this wouldn’t be newsworthy, except for the House’s 217-215 vote in late April to approve Republican Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s budget cuts-debt limit hike bill, and the price McCarthy paid to the radical rightists of the Freedom Caucus to get them to vote “yes.” Then it becomes relevant.

Want even more cuts

Because the radical rightists want even more cuts than McCarthy’s measure has. And killing OSHA is one of them.

In late March, in the run-up to the narrow vote, the Freedom Caucus offered their own budget package: 507 separate pieces of legislation, one for each agency or program whose budget they wanted to cut or eliminate. The total would be about $1 trillion.

The big ticket item in their “zeroes” at the Departments of Labor, Education, Health and Human Services: “student financial aid.” It’s unclear whether they want to eliminate Pell Grants, Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, or both, as congressional Democrats and the president charge.

The rightists would also eliminate the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights, grants to states for school improvements and innovations and funding teaching English-as-a-second-language.

And the Freedom Caucus would cut the National Labor Relations Board back to $274 million, the level of funding it had from fiscal 2014 through fiscal 2022, which ended last September 30. Now it’s at $299 million, and Biden wants to increase it to $374 million to let it pursue more law-breakers.

While Biden didn’t specifically mention Biggs’s kill-OSHA scheme, the entire Freedom Caucus cut-slash-and kill plan got the White House’s attention in late March.

In a statement headlined Five-Alarm Fire, the White House declared: “The extreme MAGA Republican House Freedom Caucus made their priorities clear: Imposing devastating cuts to public safety and increasing costs for working- and middle-class families, all to protect and extend tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and big corporations.” Biden said MAGAs would increase the deficit.

“Combined with other commitments extreme MAGA House Republicans have already made, the extreme Freedom Caucus proposal will be a disaster for families in at least five key ways: Endangering public safety, raising costs for families, shipping manufacturing jobs overseas and undermining American workers, weakening national security, and hurting seniors.”

While the Freedom Caucus schemes to kill OSHA and enact its spending cuts, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Senate Budget Committee hearings Thursday on the impact of McCarthy’s debt limit-budget cut bill. Schumer noted McCarthy wrote his budget bill in secret and without hearings. The Senate leader promises to reveal its real impact on real people.

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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.