WASHINGTON – A group of ultra-conservative House Republicans on Friday outlined their demands to address the debt ceiling, pushing to repeal much of President Joe Biden’s Reduced Inflation Act and reverse the latest funding deal for the government.

The plan is highly unlikely to become law, and represents a major challenge facing GOP Chairman Kevin McCarthy: unifying a conference that is divided on strategy in the face of a looming deadline to avoid a financially calamitous default.

The Freedom Caucus, chaired by Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn., proposed rejecting Biden’s $400 billion student debt relief; rescind unspent Covid-19 funds; cut funding for climate change and $80 billion for additional IRS enforcement under the Cut Inflation Act; and limit discretionary spending to fiscal year 2022 levels for a decade.

Perry estimated that would save about $3 trillion over a decade. The group said in a one-page plan that it would «consider voting to raise the debt ceiling pending enactment of legislation» that would accomplish the above, along with passing deregulation bills like the REINS Act and adding of work requirements for well-being.

But Republicans gave no indication that they would write their own bill that would represent the vision of the Freedom Caucus, raising questions about whether their effort will get off the ground. Perry said the ideas have already been featured in several bills.

The Freedom Caucus represents the views of the most right-wing members of the House. It’s far from clear that McCarthy would back the plan, let alone find the votes to pass it with a slim Republican majority. And if he does, he would be dead by reaching the Democratic-led Senate vetoed by Biden.

The Treasury Department has said that Congress has until June 5 to avoid a debt default that would have catastrophic consequences for the US economy. The Congressional Budget Office projects the deadline to be between July and September.

Asked about how unlikely McCarthy would win support to pass the Freedom Caucus plan, Perry said, «Well, look, that’s his job. Not mine.»

Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., center, and members of the House Freedom Caucus announcing their proposed debt limit Friday.
Rep. Scott Perry, R-Pa., center, and members of the House Freedom Caucus announcing their proposed debt limit Friday. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Perry did not say how much Congress should raise the debt ceiling, if it were to adopt his plan: «I don’t know how much it should be. Again, I’m not the one asking for a debt ceiling increase.» House Republicans are divided on the way forward. Some want party leadership to come up with a GOP debt limit plan and pass it in the House. Among them is Rep. Ralph Norman, RS.C., who vowed that «we’re going to get» the 218 votes to pass a conservative plan. But others want to pre-negotiate a bill with Democrats, who have demanded a «clean» debt ceiling increase with no strings attached.

«This is extreme on steroids. This would shrink and burn our economy,» Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., the ranking member of the Budget Committee, said of the Freedom Caucus proposal. «It shows how remarkably unserious and extreme their agenda is.»

Biden criticized the Freedom Caucus plan on Friday, saying it would amount to cutting «all non-defense spending by 25%.»

“That means police officers, firefighters; means health care. … They want to make sure we don’t have enough IRS agents,” Biden said, adding that such agents are needed to “verify the accounts of the super-rich.”

«We just have a very different set of values,» the president said.

McCarthy gave no indication Wednesday that he intends to write or pass a GOP debt limit bill when asked if that is his plan. “I hope to get a debt limit increase that changes our funding going through the House and Senate,” he said, indicating that he wants Democrats on board before taking a vote.

“You have to have the president on board,” he said. “You have to have the Senate. You have to have everyone.»

Perry acknowledged that McCarthy has a difficult task.

“He has to try to navigate what the president wants,” Perry said. “Obviously, the president’s marker is in the stratosphere. I’m not saying it’s easy to reach an agreement. But if he, if the speaker wants me to go negotiate with the president, I’ll do it with pleasure. But he’s going to figure that out. And then we’ll determine if that’s good or bad.»

At a news conference Friday to unveil the plan, Perry ruled out the possibility of McCarthy reaching a deal with Democrats that would keep the Freedom Caucus out.

“Spokesman McCarthy is not going to reach an agreement with the Democrats,” he told reporters with a smile.

Rep. Anna Paulina Luna, R-Fla., a Freedom Caucus member who attended the news conference, chimed in: «He’s got a backbone.»

Later, Perry said there has been no talk of ousting McCarthy if he comes up with a clean debt limit increase that is free of political strings attached such as spending cuts.

«We’re not talking about the motion to quash at this time,» he said.

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