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House GOP members want to defund ‘woke’ government initiatives as solution to debt limit

Several Republicans are preparing to demand spending cuts to programs supporting equity and inclusion.

By Josh Israel - February 27, 2023
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Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, speaks during the House Budget Committee meeting on Thursday, February 9, 2023.
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 9: Chairman Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, speaks during the House Budget Committee meeting titled "Consideration of Committee Rules and Oversight Plan," in Cannon Building on Thursday, February 9, 2023. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

As the United States faces the possibility of a default on the national debt, House Republican leaders have yet to release any specific demands for expenditures they want to cut in exchange for averting what could be an economic catastrophe. But some GOP lawmakers are supporting the elimination of what they call “woke” government programs, those aimed at reducing systemic racism and promoting equity and inclusion.

Under the current debt ceiling law, the Treasury Department can borrow no more than $31.381 trillion to pay for the spending Congress has authorized and the interest on the debt it has already incurred. With the national debt already around that amount, legislators will have to act over the next few months or face an unprecedented default, possibly as soon as this summer.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has said his GOP majority will not act to increase the debt ceiling unless President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate agree to “sensible, responsible solutions to our growing national debt.” As Republican lawmakers begin to discuss what they want to see defunded, the word “woke” has been appearing in their rhetoric.

According to Merriam-Webster, the term “woke” is a slang term meaning “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).”

Linguist Tony Thorne told the New Yorker in January that in recent years, Republicans have used the term as a catchall for ideas they oppose, such as voting rights, workplace diversity, LGBTQ equality, and efforts to curb police violence. Now, Thorne said, “it’s an unusable word—although it is used all the time—because it doesn’t actually mean anything.”

On Feb. 8, Republicans on the House Budget Committee listed some possible areas for cuts, including affordable health care, environmental protections, and safety net programs for low income families. They also proposed to “Stop Woke-Waste”:

The recent omnibus included millions of dollars in funding for woke policies that American taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for, including $1.2 million for “LGBTQIA+ Pride Centers,” $1 million for a space for “gender-expansive people of color,” $3.6 million for a Michelle Obama Trail in Georgia, and $750,000 for “Transgender and Gender nonconforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women in Los Angeles.”

Other House Republicans have expressed similar demands before they will take any action on the debt limit.

“Our government is broke, woke, and an international joke. Accepting the status quo would be a gift to America’s opponents at home and abroad – including China,” Alabama Rep. Barry Moore tweeted on Feb. 22. “Republicans must use all our leverage to cut spending, reduce our debt, and restore accountability to government.”

“China owns over a trillion dollars of America’s debt,” tweeted Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert on Feb. 14. “It’s time to cut the waste and the woke and get our financial house in order!”

“Don’t believe the Dem fear mongering. We’re not going to default on the debt,” tweeted Texas Rep. Chip Roy on Jan. 18. “House Republicans are fighting to cut woke, weaponized, and wasteful spending and the swamp is TERRIFIED.”

Rolling Stone reported in late January that the right-wing Center for Renewing America, founded in 2021 by Russell Vought, a director of the Office of Management and Budget under former President Donald Trump, has been meeting with congressional Republicans and urging them to adopt a budget proposal called “A Commitment to End Woke and Weaponized Government.”

The proposal states:

In short, America cannot be saved unless the current grip of woke and weaponized government is broken. That is the central and immediate threat facing the country—the one that all our statesmen must rise tall to vanquish. The battle cannot wait. However, this woke and weaponized regime requires the resources of taxpayers to flourish and can be starved in order to dismantle it. Of course, these spending cuts will result in significant savings for the taxpayers. Thus, the main priority of this first Budget from the Center for Renewing America is to consciously and indelibly link the efforts of getting our nation’s finances in order with removing the scourge of woke and weaponized bureaucracy aimed at the American people.

Among the group’s proposed cuts are changes to a Justice Department grant program to ensure “any prospective recipient with a focus or emphasis on equity, race essentialism, or radical gender theory is disqualified from receiving taxpayer funding”; a 50% cut to the Head Start program, which provides early childhood education to kids from low-income families; “a total defunding of the DOJ’s woke and weaponized Community Relations Service”; and defunding of the Health and Human Services Department’s equity grants and its Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

The group says:

“This Budget assumes economic policies that will generate growth of 3 percent, and it includes nearly $9 trillion in savings over ten years from spending cuts and reforms. Of that amount nearly $3 trillion comes from discretionary spending, primarily dismantling the woke and weaponized bureaucracy, and $6 trillion originates from reforms to mandatory spending that increase participation in the labor force, reduce welfare, end the inflationary drivers of subsidizing student loans, inject common sense into health spending, etc.”

South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman told Rolling Stone, “Our office is gonna use a lot of what Russ had. … We need to cut wokeness out. Our office is going to be looking at the dollars that go into wokeness — whether it’s in the military, whether it’s in discretionary money.”

House Budget Committee Chair Jodey Arrington told Reuters on Monday that much of the Center for Renewing America blueprint would be in his panel’s budget proposal: “It is consistent with what’s in his budget.”

While Republicans have blamed Biden and Democrats for the national debt and ongoing budget deficits, they voted for many of the policies that brought them to their current levels, including bipartisan COVID-19 relief packages and the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and have proposed numerous tax cuts and spending increases this year that would make the deficit even larger.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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