Biden says Republicans are 'holding the economy hostage' in wake of debt limit meeting
Biden, Dems have refused to negotiate over debt limit after House Republicans passed debt ceiling bill
President Biden blasted Republicans over the debt limit at an event in New York on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after a bipartisan meeting on the subject yielded no movement on the issue as lawmakers look to prevent a first-ever default on the national debt.
"They’re literally, not figuratively, holding the economy hostage by threatening to default on our nation’s debt that we’ve already incurred, we’ve already incurred over the last couple hundred years, unless we give in to their threats and demands as to what they think we should be doing with regard to the budget," Biden said at an event in Valhalla.
The event comes after Biden met Tuesday with bipartisan congressional leaders, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who is taking the lead in negotiations with the White House. The federal government is facing a fast-approaching deadline that may arrive as early as June 1 to raise the U.S. debt limit above $31.4 trillion, and the Treasury Department’s extraordinary measures may not be sufficient to meet the nation’s financial obligations deeper into the summer.
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Democrats and the Biden administration thus far have refused to negotiate over spending reforms as part of a package to raise the debt limit. They insist on a "clean" debt ceiling bill that contains no cuts to federal spending levels.
In late April, House Republicans narrowly passed legislation known as the Limit, Save, Grow Act to raise the debt limit by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024 — whichever benchmark is first reached. The bill also capped discretionary spending, which excludes items like Social Security and Medicare, at fiscal year 2022 levels and limited spending increases to 1% for the next decade.
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However, the White House has threatened to veto the bill, and the Democratic majority in the Senate is also opposed to the measure. Biden reiterated his opposition to the Republicans’ spending plan in his remarks on Wednesday.
"Not only do they rule out any new revenue, they’re still determined to make permanent the $2 trillion tax cuts which [are] due to expire, the Trump tax cuts, without paying a penny of it," Biden said. "Now, here, look, here’s what that leaves us with. This is basic sort of math. It leaves us with the requirement to cut 22% of everything else in the budget in order to meet the requirements."
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Following Tuesday’s bipartisan meeting in the Oval Office, McCarthy said there had been little movement from either side on the issue.
"Everybody in this meeting reiterated the positions they were at. I didn’t see any new movement," the speaker said. McCarthy also noted that Senate Democrats haven’t passed a debt limit increase through the upper chamber and added, "I’ve done everything in my power to make sure we will not default."
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A bipartisan compromise will be necessary for any debt limit increase to become law, given Democrats’ control of the White House and Senate and Republicans holding the majority in the House and retaining the ability to filibuster legislation in the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he will take a back seat to McCarthy in the upcoming negotiations but emphasized that divided government means a bipartisan agreement will be needed for a proposal to clear the Senate.
"There is no sentiment in the Senate, certainly not 60 votes, for a clean debt ceiling," McConnell said. "So, there must be an agreement. And the sooner the president and the speaker can reach an agreement, the sooner we can solve the problem."
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Following Tuesday’s meeting, McCarthy said the next step in the process will be for staff-level meetings to occur the rest of this week prior to another meeting between Biden and congressional leaders on Friday.
McCarthy has said that given the June 1 deadline and the congressional schedule, lawmakers will likely need to reach a deal next week to give both chambers of Congress the necessary time to move a debt limit bill.
FOX Business’ Elizabeth Elkind contributed to this report.