The right-wing official who served as budget director for the Trump administration is reportedly playing a significant advisory role for House Republicans as they seek to leverage a fast-approaching debt ceiling crisis to enact spending cuts that would disproportionately impact low-income households.
According toThe Washington Post, former Office of Management and Budget chief Russ Vought "has emerged as one of the central voices shaping the looming showdown over federal spending and the national debt."
"As Republicans struggle to craft a strategy for confronting the Biden administration over the debt ceiling, which limits how much the government can borrow to pay for spending Congress has already approved, Vought has supplied them with a seemingly inexhaustible stream of advice: suggestions for negotiating with the White House, briefings about dealing with the media, a 104-page memo that proposes specific spending levels for every federal agency," the Post reported Sunday.
More specifically, Vought has suggested that the GOP sideline efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare and instead focus on a "push to obliterate almost all other major forms of federal spending, especially programs that benefit lower-income Americans, and dare Biden to stand in the way."
Vought's agenda, the Post noted, proposes $9 trillion in federal spending cuts over the next 10 years, targeting thousands of domestic programs including Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
If adopted, Vought's proposal would inflict $2 trillion in cuts to Medicaid, potentially compromising coverage for millions across the United States—and compounding the impact of lapsing pandemic protections.
Vought's proposed cuts to SNAP—a food aid program long attacked by Republicans—would amount to $400 billion. A recent survey found that 64% of respondents said affording food is one of the biggest challenges they're facing amid elevated inflation.
Tens of millions across the U.S. are currently facing what advocates have dubbed a "hunger cliff" as pandemic-related emergency boosts to SNAP funding expire.
"At a moment when food distribution centers are seeing increases in demand as American families struggle to feed their children, Republican lawmakers are putting families in their political crossfire by threatening to dramatically decrease spending on essential programs like SNAP. The timing of this could not be worse," said Ailen Arreaza, executive director of ParentsTogether. “Further cuts to essential policies helping families to keep food on the table would be unconscionable—and those politicians responsible will pay a political price."
"The only thing more odious than pushing for $3 trillion of unpaid-for tax cuts is pushing for $3 trillion of tax cuts and $3 trillion in cuts to healthcare and nutrition for low- and middle-income families."
Vought, who is also urging Republicans to cut Labor Department funding in half and slash the Affordable Care Act, presents such austerity as needed to rein in an out-of-control federal bureaucracy. But as the Post notes, Vought "oversaw enormous increases in the national debt as Trump's director of the Office of Management and Budget," making clear to critics that his priority is gutting programs that low-income people rely on to meet basic needs.
"The Republican playbook is always to drive more people deeper into poverty, while giving kickbacks and tax breaks to their super-rich friends," said progressive organizer and former congressional candidate Melanie D'Arrigo.
Last week, more than 70 House Republicans introduced legislation that would make 2017 Trump tax cuts for individuals permanent, a major giveaway to the rich that would cost the federal government around $2.2 trillion in revenue through 2032.
The Biden White House and congressional Democrats have indicated that they would oppose federal spending cuts as part of any deal to raise the debt ceiling and prevent a catastrophic default, which could come as soon as this summer if lawmakers don't act.
"The only thing more odious than pushing for $3 trillion of unpaid-for tax cuts is pushing for $3 trillion of tax cuts and $3 trillion in cuts to healthcare and nutrition for low- and middle-income families," tweeted Brendan Duke, a senior adviser to Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).