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How Republican Rejection of Federal Dollars is a Core 2024 Strategy
The game is to, across the board, push back against or deny as many federal dollars as possible to make the Biden administration look incompetent and uncaring.
Charles D. Ellison | Publisher’s Note
There is a federal government shutdown deadline looming over everyone’s heads between now and September 30th. Perhaps cooler heads prevail by that time and realize that it’s irresponsible to risk default, but who knows. We’re still seeing very high potential for yet another high stakes and destabilizing last minute clash between House Republicans and President Biden, with many most observers doubtful they can come to an agreement on the budget for the next fiscal year. The White House is asking for an extension, but we’ll see how that works out.
This is all by design, by the way. Republicans are pitching extreme, incapable or ideologically scary candidates posing as moderate or a combination of all three for president in 2024. At the top of that pack is a ex-president who is a national security threat and already under multiple criminal indictments. In their minds, the only way to win an election is through pure subterfuge and manipulation of funding - by either rerouting funds or defunding, particularly in battleground states housing populations of voters that will be critical to Biden’s chances of re-election success. The harder you make it for those populations means the more they’re likely to point to the person in charge since they’re not paying attention to the details of debates and tense negotiations in Washington, D.C.
As climate crisis-fueled Hurricane Idalia recently wrecked parts of the South, including Florida, its Governor and 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis grandstanded and rejected $350 million of Inflation Reduction Act (or Biden Climate Plan) funds designed to mitgate climate impacts. Here’s Politico last week …
The rejection has the potential to create significant ripple effects, politically and economically, in the coming months. As the president and his Cabinet members go around the country boasting about the IRA, rebates for energy-efficient purchases — the majority of the funding that DeSantis has refused — have played a particularly prominent role. That’s not just because they underpin the administration’s climate agenda but because they provide direct rebates to consumers.
The IRA allows governors the authority to block a handful of its programs, and with it, the power to blunt the political impact of legislation that some Democrats believe will be a key factor in the 2024 election.
Making matters worse, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is complaining that its funds are now too depleted to respond to the overwhelming surge of climate disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes to floods … because, once again, House Republicans don’t want to fund the federal government. As CNN reports …
The relief fund is expected to be depleted by the middle or end of August, FEMA chief Deanne Criswell has warned. And now there’s growing concern inside the agency the funding could lapse if Congress doesn’t pass a spending bill, a FEMA official told CNN.
It’s been a record-breaking year for expensive disasters, including flooding atmospheric rivers in California and a deadly tornado outbreak. The federal government has tallied 15 weather-related disasters that have each exceeded $1 billion in damages – a new record for the first seven months of the year, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It gets worse. Meanwhile, the expanded COVID-era Medicaid expansion that lasted for three years and offered millions of vulnerable families extra healthcare is now unwinding. Congress terminated the “continuous enrollment” in Medicaid in December 2022 and the so-called “unwinding” of expanded Medicaid started on March 31st and is happening right now. States can adjust with the option of adopting the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion - but, of course, as you’ll see below, the states that aren’t adopting are not only hardline Republican, but some are 2024 battleground states and they house very large Black and Latino popultions that are economically vulnerable … and who are key voting blocs for Biden in 2024.
As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes …
It’s bad. We expected it to be bad. It was estimated that 15 million people will lose Medicaid coverage as a result of this unwinding. Some of those people could already have other sources of coverage, maybe through an employer, maybe through a spouse’s employer, or maybe they’ve aged into Medicare. But a lot of states are seeing high rates of what we call procedural terminations. That’s where the state does not have enough information to determine whether or not a person is still eligible for the program and disenrolls them, even though that person might actually still qualify. One federal report estimated that almost half of those who will be dropped from Medicaid during unwinding will still be eligible for the program.
Research has found that Black enrollees, Latino enrollees, kids, and young adults are most at risk of getting inappropriately terminated — meaning terminated despite remaining eligible — during this process.
Some older beneficiaries are also at risk, in part because their paperwork is even more complex. People with Medicaid who are over 65 years old or who qualify on the basis of disability usually have to show that their assets are below a certain limit, in addition to demonstrating very low incomes.
If those potential voters are suddenly losing Medicaid or have no access to medical care, who will they blame at the top?
The decision to stifle or block critical funds from population groups in need - whether it’s economically endangered Black and Brown communities or even middle class homeowners needing climate adaptation rebates and infrastructure changes - is unusually cruel and inhumane. Yet Republican Members of Congress and governors, along with state legislatures, (all white and all conservative in politics and values) will look for creative ways to block any funding streams that 1) repair marginalized populations and 2) offer President Biden the political advantage he needs to win re-election and perhaps carry Congressional Democrats along with him so they can ensure economic, climate, infrastructure, public health and other critical needs are met. The Washington Post already reports on “the incredible American retreat on government aid” …
The biggest political story of the moment isn’t House Republicans flirting with impeaching President Biden for TBD reasons. It’s the expiration of a wave of federal programs passed in response to the pandemic to make life easier for millions of Americans.
Millions — possibly tens of millions — are losing Medicaid coverage, the result of the end of a covid-era program that gave federal aid to states that kept people continuously enrolled rather than carry out regular purges of the rolls.
Billions in covid-era federal funding to keep child-care centers open expire at the end of September, leaving states to scramble in the face of estimates 70,000 facilities could close and 3.2 million children (mostly five years old or younger) could lose their care.
That would have enormous ripple effects across the economy, forcing some proportion of parents out of their jobs to care for their children.
Let’s not forget to mention the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, popularly (or maybe not) known as WIC as the Biden administration is requesting an extension of that. House Republicans aren’t budging, just as they aren’t budging at the moment on the 2023 reauthorization of the $1 trillion Farm Bill, which basically glues together the nation’s entire agricultural system. These fights are all wrapped up in ongoing fiscal fights we’ll need to pay more attention to. Keep an eye on these developments. All of these moves combined only serve to destablilize local communities and the overall economy. Still, heading into 2024, Republicans will use their control of the House of Representatives and whatever control they exercise in certain states to make the Biden administration look weak and incompetent … even when, clearly and especially compared to the last president, it is not. Democrats will need to counteract more forcefully.