Report: The Default on America Act

The Default on America Act: An Attack on the Well-Being of Working Families

In January 2023, the U.S. government hit the limit of funds it was allowed to borrow, forcing the Treasury Department to begin using “extraordinary measures” to keep paying the bills. Without action from Congress by June 2023, the nation was at risk of a first-ever default on its debt, which would have had devastating impacts on the nation’s economy

Republicans introduced the Default on America Act (H.R. 2811, also known as the Limit, Save, Grow Act) as their answer to the impending default. This bill would have raised the debt ceiling in exchange for massive cuts to all discretionary government spending, slashing government spending back to fiscal year 2022 (FY22) funding levels. This would have resulted in massive, devastating cuts across the board, including to local law enforcement funding, loan programs for family farms, food assistance programs for moms and kids, and veterans’ health care. The bill also includes priorities from MAGA Republicans’ deeply unpopular agenda, such as harsh work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries, billions in tax giveaways for corporations, repealing the Inflation Reduction Act clean energy tax credits, and cutting IRS funding used to catch tax cheats. These harmful funding cuts, combined with unnecessarily punitive policies, would have raised everyday costs for millions of working families, including the cost of health care, energy bills, groceries, housing, and child care, while also making it harder for people to access their hard-earned Social Security and Medicare benefits.

The bill passed the House one year ago on April 26, 2023. In 2024, this anniversary matters because it is one of the worst votes that House Republicans have taken this Congress in terms of cuts to programs and raising costs for working families – and almost all House Republicans voted for it, including Speaker Mike Johnson and every single freshman Republican. This vote was one of the first and clearest statements of House Republicans’ priorities: cutting funding to critical programs millions of American families rely on in exchange for tax breaks to corporations. 

By voting for the Default on America Act, Republicans in Congress voted to:

  • Raise health care costs
  • Raise food and grocery costs
  • Raise housing costs by cutting rental assistance
  • Cut access to Social Security and Medicare
  • Cut veterans’ health care and benefits
  • Hand big corporations billions in tax breaks
  • Raise the cost of energy bills
  • Protect wealthy and corporate tax cheats
  • Raise the cost of child care
  • Cut law enforcement and public safety programs
  • Cut border security
  • Cut funding for public schools

This report outlines messages used by advocates over the last year to hold House Republicans accountable for this poisonous vote and calls on them to oppose similar legislation. This includes language used in paid media products, polling, press statements, and more, along with detailed research backing up these statements. Because of the wide range of topics covered in this bill, this report spans many issue areas and includes different defensible messaging options on the same subjects, in addition to those top messages listed above. 

Since this vote, House Republicans have doubled down on pushing for more harmful funding cuts through the appropriations process, including passage of a similar bill (H.R. 5525) in September 2023. Ultimately, Congress passed bipartisan appropriations legislation for FY2024, which even included necessary increases to key programs like child care funding. However, House Republicans continue to promote the Default on America Act and advocate for some of its most destructive program cuts. In its FY2025 budget proposal, the Republican Study Committee highlighted its ongoing support of the “House-passed Limit, Save Grow, Act” specifically because of its harsh Medicaid work requirements. 

As the FY2025 appropriations process begins, advocates must continue to call on House Republicans to protect crucial government programs for veterans, seniors, and working families, support public safety, lower everyday costs, and make corporations pay their fair share of taxes – unlike their vote for the Default on America Act last year.