Agencies across the government are sounding the alarm over the potential impact of steep spending cuts included in a Republican-backed proposal.
Officials from nearly 20 agencies — including from departments of State, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Education and Veterans Affairs, as well as the Social Security Administration — wrote letters over the past several weeks warning of what a return to 2022 spending levels would mean for their offices next year.
The letters were in response to requests made in January by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, for information on how capping discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels would affect their agencies.
House Republicans have yet to release their official budget plan. But the letters come as Republicans have voiced support for budget caps, with hard-line conservatives pushing to restrict discretionary funding for fiscal 2024 at the 2022 threshold, while keeping defense funding at current levels.
Among some of the wide-ranging potential effects highlighted by DeLauro’s office in a release on Monday are reduced access to rental assistance for more than 600,000 families, the shuttering of 125 Air Traffic Control towers in a drawdown that could impact “one-third of all airports,” and a sharp reduction in rail safety jobs that could mean “30,000 fewer miles of track inspected annually.”
In a letter from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack’s office, officials warned setting funding at fiscal 2022 levels would mean “state WIC programs would have to reduce participation and establish waiting lists using the priority system provided in regulation,” while also arguing that “nearly 250,000 monthly participants would not receive benefits.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said setting funding for Head Start, a program for low-income families with preschool children, at those levels “would eliminate at least 170,000 slots for children,” while Social Security Administration chief Kilolo Kijakazi said the agency could see a “reduction of over 5,000 employees who are essential to processing retirement claims.”
Officials from the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also sent a letter arguing that dropping 2024 funding to 2022 levels “would call into question the United States’ foreign policy, national security and development leadership and jeopardize U.S. national security.”
“There would be significant reductions to bipartisan priorities provided for in FY 2022 and FY 2023, including: support for Ukraine and its neighbors; countering the influence of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) influence; resourcing the Indo Pacific Strategy; strengthening our workforce through hiring, training, and career development; and maintaining U.S. leadership in humanitarian assistance and global food security programs,” the letter continued.
DeLauro’s office indicated on Monday that it is also awaiting letters it requested from the departments of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security, as well as the Small Business Administration.
In a statement accompanying the letters on Monday, DeLauro panned the potential cuts as “unrealistic, unsustainable, and unconscionable.”
“The math is not there. These drastic cuts would put people at risk,” she added, while saying she looks forward to discussing the letters “with agency leaders in the coming weeks during our committee hearings to help the American people and Congress understand the real cost to human lives these extreme cuts would have.”
The letters are just the latest development in a Democratic push attacking Republicans for proposed across-the-board cuts to spending, as a partisan clash over the nation’s debt limit has intensified in recent weeks.