As the nation moves dangerously close to a government shutdown on Oct. 1, House leaders are shifting their focus to the next big fiscal fight: raising the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit by one year before Oct. 17. On Wednesday night, Republicans circulated an outline of demands, threatening to push the nation into default unless President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate agree to enact a wish list of Republican priorities.
Though Obama has repeatedly insisted that he would not negotiate over the must-pass legislation, leadership is hoping to satisfy conservative members by including every “major piece of the Republican agenda” save a “ban on late-term abortions — and some lawmakers who oppose abortion were arguing to add that,” the Washington Post reports. Below is a look at some of their demands:
1. Approve of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The pipeline would link Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast and is currently under review at the State Department. The project would create 3,900 temporary construction jobs per year and would would only support 35 permanent and 15 temporary jobs, with “negligible socioeconomic impacts,” after construction is complete. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that constructing the pipeline would increase annual carbon emissions by “up to 27.6 million metric tons, or the equivalent of nearly 6 million cars on the road.” Without completing Keystone, tar sands production is estimated to fall flat by 2020. At least three Democratic senators who support the pipeline — Mark Begich of Alaska, Max Baucus of Montana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia — said in interviews that language for the project should not be included in the debt-ceiling measure. “I’ve supported Keystone, but we should have a clean debt-limit bill,” Begich said. “That’s been the traditional way, and it’s been very successful.”
2. Weaken the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans have repeatedly tried to weaken the CFPB, which was created in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis to protect consumers from the predatory lending practices of large banks and financial institutions. The agency has increased supervision over mortgage lenders, brokers, consumer reporting agencies, and large banks, cracked down on debt collectors, set up programs to help consumers better understand loan agreements and recoup refunds from deceptive and illegal practices, and wrote new rules to prevent wrongful foreclosures.
3. Delay implementation of Obamacare for one year. The demand comes just days before millions of uninsured Americans begin signing up for health care coverage in the new law’s state-based marketplaces, and could actually increase the deficit. A Congressional Budget Office report from July 2012 found that repealing the ACA in its entirety would increase the federal deficit by $109 billion over 10 years and $24 billion in FY 2014. Undoing certain coverage provisions but maintaining the revenues and cuts in the law — a tactic Republicans have used in the past, most prominently in Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget — would decrease the deficit anywhere between $35 billion and almost $50 billion. Doing so, however, would maintain billions of dollars in cuts to the Medicare program and taxes on various sectors of the health care system, which Republicans say they oppose.
4. Cut $120 billion from federal health programs over the next decade. The savings would come from expanding means testing in the Medicare program, instituting more tort reform, and repealing the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is designed to support states and communities in fighting chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and diabetes (conditions which disproportionately afflict Americans living in states represented by Republican members.) The GOP would also force so-called “high-income” Medicare beneficiaries, defined as those making $85,000 and above for individuals, or $170,000 for families, to pay more for health care coverage. Under their proposal, the definition of “high income” would actually expand over time until it includes one-fourth of all beneficieries.
5. Increase offshore oil drilling and energy production on federal lands. Fueled by Big Oil interests, Republicans have long supported opening virtually all of the U.S. Atlantic coast, the Pacific coast off Southern California, and much of Alaska’s offshore space to new drilling — even though oil production on federal lands has been higher every year from 2009 through 2011 than it was from 2006 through 2008. U.S. oil production is now at its highest level since 1997, according to government figures. However, Congress has yet to pass a single piece of legislation that would make drilling safer in the aftermath of the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
6. Block federal regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. Since a 2007 Supreme Court decision found that EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide under the 1973 Clean Air Act, the agency has announced updated draft rules setting a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that new power plants can emit and will launch a “listening tour” to hear from industry, environmental groups, and the public on how to regulate power plants already spewing carbon pollution. The GOP would reverse that progress in the face of studies showing that exposure to air pollution leads to about 200,000 premature deaths each year, with California experiencing the most early deaths from air pollution. Up to 3 million premature deaths could be avoided each year globally by 2100 if aggressive emissions cuts are made.
7. Restrict most forms of federal industry regulation. The GOP is pushing for legislation which would require all major regulations to get a vote in Congress and nullify regulations that are not approved within 70 days. The so-called REINS Act would force federal agencies to depend on Congress to find the time to approve changes to vehicle safety standards, reductions in greenhouse emissions or streamlining the FDA’s process for approving new drugs.
Republicans increased the debt ceiling 19 times during the presidency of George W. Bush, raising the nation’s limit by nearly $4 trillion. The vote would pay for the spending Congress has already enacted and is not a determination of how much much the nation should spend.