Debt ceiling deal goes to Congress – what’s in it? – National & International News – MON 29May2023


Debt ceiling deal goes to Congress- what’s in it? 

Sudan: Fighting picks up as ceasefire winds down.


Debt ceiling deal goes to Congress- what’s in it?

Pres. Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy negotiated a deal this weekend to raise the $31 trillion debt ceiling. That plan will now go to the Republican-dominated House and Democrat-dominated Senate for ratification. McCarthy has promised to give his members 72 hours to review any legislation before a vote. That clock started last night. Treasury officials now say we have until June 5 to approve a deal and avoid a debt default.

From the Republican point of view, their stonewalling has produced a result that is far from a resounding success. The total cuts are relatively modest compared to the list of demands GOP leaders wanted from the outset. Republicans did get some modest wins on two issues which were priorities for them – new work requirements for older SNAP recipients and reducing funding for the IRS. The deal also caps federal non-defense spending increases at 1% (far below the rate of inflation) through Jan. 2025. What domestic programs will see cuts will be down to future budget negotiations.

Will it pass in time?

Biden urged his fellow Democrats in both houses of Congress to approve the deal. McCarthy says the deal has broad support among Republicans.

However, two hardline House GOPers, Rep. Chip Roy of Texas and Rep. Mike Lee of Utah have already said they will try to stop the deal going through. Under the House’s new rules, which McCarthy agreed to in order to get the Speaker’s chair, it only takes one House member to delay a vote for up to a week.

What’s in the deal?

COVID clawbacks

Part of this deal calls for clawing back about $30 billion apportioned for various COVID relief projects in states. This includes unspent rental assistance money, small business loans, and money to expand rural broadband. This could have implications for future plans to expand broadband in rural areas in Mississippi.

IRS cuts

The $80 billion budget increase passed for the IRS last year will be slashed to $60 billion. The remaining $20 billion will be diverted to backfill other domestic spending programs.

A Democrat-controlled Congress approved the new funds last year to boost the agency’s ability to pursue wealthy tax cheats, who illegally deprive the Treasury of billions of dollars every year. Despite Republicans’ public handwringing about the deficit, they have vehemently opposed any tax increases or any improvements to IRS enforcement.

SNAP work requirements

The deal makes some changes to work requirements for recipients of SNAP (food stamp) benefits. All of these new provisions will be phased in over the next 3 years and will sunset in 2030. Currently, SNAP requires proof of work for childless, able-bodied adults up to 50 years old. Republicans wanted to increase this to 55.

The negotiated deal before Congress raises the age to 54, requiring them to work 20 hours a week to continue receiving benefits. But the deal also introduces new exemptions from work requirements for young adults (18-24) who are leaving the foster care system and for veterans and adults experiencing homelessness, regardless of age.

Energy permitting (a sweetheart deal for Sen. Joe Manchin)

One provision that may present a significant stumbling block for Senate passage is a measure to do away with some environmental impact study requirements for new energy projects, including plans to exploit carbon-heavy energy sources like oil and coal.

Twice in the last year, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has attempted to pass bills easing permitting requirements, and both times, his fellow Democrats rejected it. Manchin owns millions of dollars in coal assets and his biggest donors are fossil fuel companies. His financial interests are at odds with Democrats’ goal of drastically reducing the country’s carbon pollution by 2030.

If this debt ceiling deal goes through, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (a major pet energy project of Manchin’s in West Virginia) will be singled out for special treatment- all the project’s outstanding permits will be approved.

What will it mean for the future?

The deal will carry us into Jan. 2025, rather than petering out next year as House GOPers originally wanted. This will avert the problem of having to negotiate to raise the debt ceiling in the midst of the Presidential election cycle. However, the November 2024 elections will probably bring a lot of turnover in Congress. If more Republicans win in the Senate or House, the newly-seated Congress is likely to face yet another partisan debt limit showdown.

Most of the provisions of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts will also expire in 2025, leaving the new Congress to fight it out over whether to extend these cuts or allow them to end. The Trump tax cuts decreased have tax revenues by billions per year and will have increase the federal deficit by trillions by the time they expire.

Click here to see more about what’s in the deal (opens in new tab).



Sudan: Fighting picks up as ceasefire winds down

Six weeks of brutal fighting in Sudan’s civil war is picking up once again after a weeklong ceasefire seems set to expire. In truth, artillery and gun fire never truly ceased, even in the capital Khartoum. Since the fighting began on April 15, at least 1,800 have died by violence. The number who have died by deprivation of water, food or medica care may never be known. Fighting has displaved ore than a million people internally and caused 350,000 to flee to other countries.

Despite the ceasefire, fighting in the country has continued to prevent food and medical aid reaching desperate people trapped in the warzone. More than half of Sudan’s 50 million people are dependent on such aid for their survival.

The fight between two Sudanese generals (one the head of the country’s armed forces, the other the leader of a powerful paramilitary group), still shows no sign of a settlement or peace talks any time in the near future.

This week, two UN agencies have warned of a rising danger of mass starvation in Sudan, as well as in Haiti, Burkina Faso and Mali. The World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization are calling on UN member countries for urgent aid and attention.

Click here for the full story (opens in new tab).


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