Speaker McCarthy Floats Massive Defense Cuts

At long last, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives has presented its spending plans, courtesy of Speaker Kevin McCarthy. In a Wall Street address, McCarthy announced his ransom for the full faith and credit of the United States (which he is holding hostage by refusing to even consider a debt ceiling increase without conditions). Among the demands were massive reductions to defense spending over the next decade.

Hiding the Cuts in the Fine Print

Granted, the Speaker and his Republican colleagues were hoping you missed that part, much like the House Freedom Caucus did last month. But it’s still the inevitable consequences of his words.

This is what he said (emphasis in original):

Our legislation accomplishes the same goal by returning the federal government to 2022 spending levels—and then limiting the growth of spending over the next 10 years to 1 percent annual growth.

Don’t believe anyone who says these are draconian limits. They’re the same spending levels we operated under just last October.

For the uninitiated, the FY2022 spending levels for the federal government were $130B less than Biden’s FY2024 request (and $135B less than the current budget). That includes defense and non-defense spending, which in theory leaves some room to maneuver between the two. However, McCarthy’s emphatic declaration on “the same spending levels we operated under just last October” makes it clear he’s looking at a carbon copy of the FY2022 actuals.

Further evidence of this comes from the House GOP Main Street Caucus, which listed some of “the specific menu of options (McCarthy) shared.” Among them was, “Return FY24 non-defense discretionary spending to FY22 levels.” Based on that and this speech, McCarthy want both defense and non-defense spending cut back to the FY2022 figures.

By the Numbers

Those figures for these categories can be found in Table S-7 of President Biden’s budget. If his budget were to be enacted, defense spending would rise to $886B in FY2024. Over the next ten years (FY2024-33), defense spending overall would be $9.543 trillion. As I mentioned earlier in reviewing the HFC’s debt ceiling demands, even if they accepted the FY2023 defense figure ($858B) over ten years, that would be $962B less than Biden’ request.

What McCarthy is demanding is even worse. If we are to take the Republican leader of the House at his word, he would reduce defense spending in FY2024 to $782B and allow it to rise at only 1% a year for 10 years. That would mean a reduction of more than $1.3 trillion over the next decade. It would also completely shut off the supply of weapons to Ukraine, as non-Ukraine defense spending is already over $782B this year.

Every Republican Who Backed McCarthy Brought Us to This Moment

This would all be bad enough if it were a mere budget proposal – an announcement of the GOP’s warped priorities. However, this is not a budget; it is a list of political requirements to prevent a default on American debt. In other words, Kevin McCarthy and all those who elected him Speaker are so wedded to slashing defense and leaving Ukraine out to dry that they are risking the full faith and credit of the United States for it. This is the hill the American economy must die on.

I cannot think of anything a House majority has done that was more undermining of America’s interests, her value, or her allies in my five decades on this earth. Not even the 2011 Budget Control Act did this to defense expenditures – and that was without Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to counter.

Every Republican Representative who supported or allowed McCarthy’s ascension to the Chair (in other words, all of them) brought us to this moment. The Republican Party has once again shown itself unfit for power.

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