House GOP’s First 100 Days: Few Results, Lots of Unpopular Ideas

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., center left, and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., hold an event to mark 100 days of the Republican majority in the House, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, April 17, 2023. At far right is Majority Whip Tom Emmer, R-Minn. In a speech Monday at the New York Stock Exchange, the Republican leader accused President Joe Biden of refusing to engage in budget-cutting negotiations to prevent a debt crisis. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

By Isabel Soisson

April 18, 2023

Friday marked 100 days since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. It’s been a memorable, but unproductive time. 

Infighting within the Republican party began right away: it took a record 15 rounds of voting for Kevin McCarthy (R-California) to be elected Speaker of the House, which delayed the swearing in of hundreds of members of Congress and put off any actual legislative work for several days. To secure the speakership, McCarthy was forced to make promises to a critical group of far-right conservatives, who want to slash government spending on key social programs, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, health insurance, and food assistance. 

The past three months have seen McCarthy struggle to live up to those promises and fail to create consensus in his caucus about how to approach debt ceiling negotiations with the Biden administration. They’ve also seen him give some of the most extreme House members of his party carte blanche to conduct half-baked and sometimes conspiratorial investigations into the Biden administration and other Democrats. 

Here’s a breakdown of some of the House GOP’s main efforts over the past 100 days:

Cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Other Social Programs

Since taking control of the House, Republicans have discussed one plan after another that would target critical benefits that tens of millions of Americans rely on, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. While Democrats have refused to slash funding for those programs, Republicans have threatened to use the upcoming debt ceiling negotiations as a way to extract spending cuts from President Biden.

The debt ceiling is a numerical limit, set by Congress, on how much money the federal government can borrow to pay its bills. Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960—nearly once a year, because failing to raise the limit would cause the US to default on its debt, triggering a global financial crisis. 

But Republicans appear ready to push the country to the brink of default this year to get what they want.

After the GOP took control of the House, a group of Republican lawmakers called for the creation of special panels that would be able to recommend changes—and potentially cuts—to Social Security and Medicare. Another GOP plan would have raised the Social Security retirement age to 70, which would target younger Americans who have yet to see federal benefits. Other Republicans like Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida were even more explicit about the need to cut spending on “entitlement” programs like Social Security. 

After public blowback and pressure from the Biden administration, McCarthy said that cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be off the table. Instead, MAGA Republicans have proposed cuts to the Medicaid health insurance program and the Supplemental Nutrition Food Assistance Program (SNAP), which could have disastrous consequences.

If Republicans were able to successfully make cuts to Medicaid, seniors and people with disabilities who live at home would receive worse home care and hundreds of thousands of nursing home residents would be at risk of lower quality of care. Millions of people struggling with addiction could lose access to substance use treatment or mental health care and 41 million children who receive coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program would also be at risk of losing access to care, or getting worse coverage. 

On Monday, McCarthy introduced a new debt limit proposal tying a one-year debt ceiling increase with a set of spending cuts and policy changes. His proposal includes efforts to cut SNAP food assistance for millions of low-income Americans. SNAP helps feed more than 41 million Americans and cuts to the program would almost certainly increase hunger and poverty, especially among families with children.

These various proposals have been dead on arrival among Democrats, who have called for Republicans to join them in raising the debt ceiling cleanly—as they helped Republicans do three times in the Trump era—without any cuts to social programs.

McCarthy has said that defaulting on the nation’s debt is “not an option,” but Republicans make that outcome more likely with each passing day. The impact of a default would be devastating: seniors might not receive their Social Security, an estimated six million people would lose their jobs, and unemployment would skyrocket to 7%, which could lead the economy to collapse

Unpopular Investigations

Even before House Republicans took control in January, they were “promising payback,” as NPR notes.

House Freedom Caucus members, led by Reps. James Comer of Kentucky and Jim Jordan of Ohio, pledged to investigate everything from the Biden family’s business practices and Hunter Biden’s laptop, to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and “alleged government bias against conservatives.”

Many of these investigations have begun, but they’ve failed to gain traction or lead to any notable findings. They’re also not very popular among the American public.

According to progressive research group Navigator, 53% of Americans say that Republicans in Congress are “focused on oversight of the Biden administration,” but only 15% deem that to be a “top four issue priority for them personally.” 

In other words, voters think House Republicans are focused on the wrong thing. 

Issues the majority of Americans deem to be more important include inflation, the economy, guns, health care, crime, and corruption in government. Fifty-nine percent of those surveyed say they disapprove of Republicans in Congress overall. 

Limiting Access to Reproductive Health Care

When they took office earlier this year, House Republicans didn’t waste any time attacking access to reproductive health care.

In January, they passed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which unnecessarily compels doctors to provide care to infants that survive abortions, an incredibly rare occurrence. Fewer than 1% of all abortions happen after the point of viability, which is roughly 23 to 24 weeks, and in the vast majority of those cases, abortions are only carried out because of threats to the mother’s life or significant fetal abnormalities.

Cases of infants surviving attempted abortions are even more rare, and in the handful of cases where such a situation does occur, the bill would force doctors to treat infants even if there’s no chance of survival, potentially causing more trauma and pain for the parents.

Reproductive rights advocates also argue that bills like this are superfluous because the rights of infants born alive after an attempted abortion are already protected, thanks to a 2002 law that was passed in a bipartisan fashion.

Instead, advocates argue, “born alive” bills are meant to further target reproductive freedom and allow politicians to insert themselves into families’ private medical decisions.

“These bills serve instead to position politicians between health care providers and families as a transparent attempt to further criminalize abortion,” according to the Later Abortion Initiative, which is part of Ibis Reproductive Health, a nonprofit organization. “They rely on inflammatory rhetoric that belittles the lived experiences of families and health care providers and has no basis in medical or scientific fact.” 

The measure won’t advance in the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, ensuring its demise. 

That same month, House Republicans voted on three more measures reinforcing the party’s opposition to abortion. One of these proposals included text that would fast-track consideration of a bill that would permanently block using federal funding for abortions (the Hyde Amendment has already implemented this restriction in some form or another since 1976).

Republicans also passed legislation in January that could subject doctors who perform abortions to criminal penalties, but like their other anti-abortion bills, it has no chance of passing in the Senate.

Most recently, a group of 69 Republican members of Congress filed a brief urging a federal appeals court to uphold a decision from a Trump-appointed judge banning the abortion drug mifepristone nationwide. The Biden administration appealed that decision and it has since been temporarily delayed by the Supreme Court, which is expected to issue a ruling on the fate of mifepristone in the coming days.

Author

  • Isabel Soisson

    Isabel Soisson is a multimedia journalist who has worked at WPMT FOX43 TV in Harrisburg, along with serving various roles at CNBC, NBC News, Philadelphia Magazine, and Philadelphia Style Magazine.

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