WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden sent Congress his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2024, seeking to fund new initiatives and reduce the deficit with higher taxes for the highest-income Americans, but that will clash with the Republican majority goals in the House.
The document – which to advance in a divided Congress will require significant surgery – proposes a $6.8 trillion budget for 2024, when Republicans say they will seek to reduce spending and some are already targeting the Medicaid program.
Biden’s first big battle with Congressional Republicans, with a majority in the House and veto power in the Senate, will be the need to raise the limit on the federal debt ceiling, which must happen in June, and Republicans want to include measures to reduce spending.
The current federal budget expires on September 30.
The documents released by the White House do not yet include the tables that specify many program allocations for the states and territories.
Contrary to his previous two budget proposals, in the document released by the White House yesterday afternoon -which opens a debate that will extend for several months in Congress- President Biden did not call for granting parity to Puerto Rico and the other territories in the Medicaid and nutrition assistance programs, or access to Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Although the requests did not translate into specific appropriations proposals, the language included in previous budget proposals had been praised by the island’s authorities and perceived as an element of pressure on the Republican minority.
This time, the federal government has just agreed to an appropriation of nearly $19 billion over the next five years for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program. Under the spending bill passed in December 2022, that means the island would receive at least $3.65 billion this fiscal year, reaching $3.7 billion in the federal fiscal year 2024.
Medicaid largely funds the Puerto Rico government’s Vital health plan, which serves about 1.5 million people.
Despite Republican calls to reduce federal spending, the spokesperson for House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said that Puerto Rico appropriations are protected.
However, this week Republican lawmakers told Politico that the overall Medicaid program will be on the table for cuts. “If you want to save [Medicaid] for future generations, it’s never too early to look at how to do that,” said Republican Senator Mike Braun (Ind.).
Republican and conservative sectors have called for capping Medicaid spending and eliminating appropriations increases included in the Obamacare law, which is unavailable on the island.
In Philadelphia, President Biden stressed that his budget plan secures Medicare funding through 2053 with increases in the tax on those earning $400,000 or more and measures to increase the power to negotiate drug prices.
Biden’s plan proposes new domestic programs for $2 trillion and a defense budget that would reach $886 billion, which – like other programs – would increase in subsequent years.
Biden’s budget proposal also includes expanding the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children six years old and above and to $3,600 per child for children under six. The proposal seeks to match the credit in effect during the 2021 COVID-19 pandemic. The Budget proposes to increase the discretionary maximum Pell Grant by $500– It would also increase Pell Grant benefits by $500, now with a maximum of $6,895.
Among other things, Biden’s budget blueprint pushes to expand the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program and improve mobility, with a $2.4 billion increase in appropriations.
Regarding health care, Secretary Xavier Becerra said the budget proposes $7.1 billion for health centers, including $5.2 billion in “mandatory” funding, an increase of $1.3 billion over the current budget.
To fund domestic programs and reduce the fiscal deficit, Biden revived his proposals for the last session to increase taxes for large corporations and highest-income Americans by nearly $4.5 billion.
Biden’s plan seeks to repeal former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform, aiming, among other things, to raise from 21 percent to 28 percent corporate rate and to 39.6 taxes on those who make more than $400,000 annually, an increase of at least 4.6 percent.
“No billionaire should be paying a lower tax than somebody working as a schoolteacher or a firefighter or a — any of you in this room. So, my plan is to make sure that corporations begin to pay their fair share,” Biden said, at an event in Philadelphia where he referred to his budget proposal, which he said protects both Medicare and Social Security.
The House Republican leadership insisted that they would not allow tax increases and that the solution – in the face of raising the public debt ceiling and reducing the fiscal deficit – is to reduce spending.
“The problem is spending, not revenues,” said Republicans, led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (California) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (Louisiana), who called to cut “wasteful government spending,”
Democrats have asked Republicans to present their budget plan, which is not expected to happen until May.
Biden?s budget proposal proposes to invest in the federal Census and the Bureau of Economical Analysis (BEA) to, among other things, improve data collection and publication on Puerto Rico’s population and economy.