During the recent deliberations across the House and Senate over the plan eventually formulated to lift the nation’s debt limit, a long series of amendments was proposed — and many failed.
That list includes a proposal from Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) to make permanent the changes to work requirements for federal benefit programs included in the agreement. Though that list of changes included new exemptions for groups like those who are homeless, the age range in which stricter requirements generally apply for able-bodied adults without dependents was slightly expanded. While it was a testament to a compelling turn from Biden and his team in negotiations that the new requirements weren’t more extensive, it still wasn’t thrilling or inherently helpful for people that the new work requirements were included at all. The idea there is some kind of epidemic of laziness among Americans is itself a lazy idea that doesn’t correspond to the actual complications of reality.
No Democrats or Democratic Party-aligned Senators voted for Kennedy’s amendment. At earlier stages of the process, Republicans also failed to secure any new work requirements for receiving government help under Medicaid, which covers health care costs. Many Republicans in the House did end up opposing the underlying deal once it came up for a vote, expressing outrage that it didn’t go farther. Besides federal benefits for low-income Americans, Republicans were also mad about that more funding for the IRS wasn’t included in what was undone. Republicans have raised conspiracy theory-driven complaints about a potentially even armed brigade of IRS personnel targeting everyday Americans as though allowing for the additional funding will facilitate some kind of Democratic hit squad or secret police force.
A proposal from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to replace the underlying plan with a more sweeping cut to government spending alongside the increase to the debt limit also failed. Paul’s plan would have put both discretionary and non-discretionary spending under his included caps for future spending amounts, potentially jeopardizing even more of the government’s work. It’s somewhat similar to how Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) has previously spoken of favoring putting Social Security and Medicare funding as a whole under discretionary spending, which would make it vulnerable every year.