kevin mccarthy
(Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

House Republicans are refusing to raise the debt ceiling without cutting federal spending -- but lawmakers can't agree on what programs should be trimmed.

Fiscal conservatives have long sought a balanced budget, but a recent analysis by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget shows that's impossible without cutting Medicare and Social Security -- which would be deeply unpopular with voters, reported Axios.

"The numbers can’t work,” said Chris Campbell, a former Treasury official and GOP Finance Committee aide.

The analysis shows the budget cannot be balanced without cuts to Medicare and Social Security, along with veterans and defense spending, and if House Republicans aren't willing to raise taxes -- which they almost certainly are not -- the rest of the budget would have to be slashed by 85 percent to make those numbers work.

“This is shaping up to be a tough vote to balance in 10 years,” said a former House GOP leadership aide. “Where are the cuts going to be? Is it going to be on defense, entitlements or both? Both could cause problems.”

The House GOP could pass a non-binding budget with steep cuts, and then implement less drastic cuts when they actually set spending levels and negotiate on the debt ceiling, but ultra-conservatives from safe districts have little incentive to compromise -- which could set off a battle between hardliners and moderates.

“For those committed conservatives, they have a little more wiggle room than the more moderate members of...the Republican party, where the voters tend to be a little less forgiving on some positions that can be seen as — and would be characterized by Democrats, I’m sure — as extreme,” Campbell said.

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