Biden Reiterates Call for Debt Limit Increase as Congress Leaves Town
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Thursday began a Rose Garden ceremony to nominate the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a platform to once again urge House Republicans to pass a “clean” debt limit increase while talks on budget matters continue.
“Speaker [Kevin] McCarthy, [R-Calif.], and I have had several productive conversations, and our staff continue to meet as we speak … and they’re making progress,” he said before announcing his nomination of Four-Star Air Force General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“I’ve made clear time and again: Defaulting on our national debt is not an option,” the president said. “The American people deserve to know that their Social Security payments will be there, that veterans’ hospitals remain open, and that economic progress will be made and we’re going to continue to make it.
“Default puts all that at risk,” Biden continued. “Congressional leaders understand that, and they’ve all agreed: There will be no default. And it’s time for Congress to act now.”
The president also reiterated that the negotiations he’s having with McCarthy are about “the outlines of what the [next federal] budget will look like.”
“They are not about default,” he said. “They’re about competing visions for America.”
Negotiators for both sides continued to meet for most of the day on Thursday, insisting they are getting closer to striking a deal that would avert a default the Treasury Department says could come by next week.
However, with no agreement imminent, most House members began leaving Washington Thursday afternoon for the long Memorial Day holiday weekend.
Among those staying behind is McCarthy, who told reporters he will be working from the Capitol throughout the weekend.
“We’ve been talking to the White House all day, we’re going back and forth, and it’s not easy,” he said as he left his office Thursday night.
“We want to make sure this is an agreement worthy of the American people, and so it takes a while to make it happen and we’re working hard to make it happen,” he added.
McCarthy also said House members left town on Thursday with instructions to be ready to return with 24-hours’ notice if needed.
Meanwhile, at the White House, Biden noted that his administration has cut the deficit by $1.7 trillion in its first two years.
The problem in the negotiations, he said, is that “Speaker McCarthy and I have a very different view of who should bear the burden of additional efforts to get our fiscal house in order.
“I don’t believe the whole burden should fall on the backs of middle-class and working-class Americans. My House Republican friends disagree,” the president said.
“Instead, Republicans passed a bill that would make huge cuts in important programs that millions of working- and middle-class Americans count on. Huge cuts in the number of teachers, police officers, Border Patrol agents, and increased wait times for Social Security claims. And I won’t agree to that,” he continued.
The president said he’s put forth a proposal that would cut federal spending by an additional $1 trillion or more, and freeze spending for the next two years.
“That’s on top of the nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction I previously proposed through a combination of spending cuts and new revenue raises,” he said.
“I’ve proposed making the wealthy begin to pay their fair share, which will reduce the deficit,” Biden continued.
“I won’t cut programs for hard-working Americans depending on them … in order to continue big tax returns for the wealthiest Americans and America’s largest corporations.”
The president said he believes the federal government can reduce the deficit in both the short- and long-term through a combination of spending cuts on programs “that help Big Oil and Big Pharma by closing tax loopholes” and “making the wealthy pay their fair share.”
“The only way to move forward is with a bipartisan agreement,” Biden said. “And I believe we will come to an agreement that allows us to move forward and that protects the hard working Americans of this country.”
A Monmouth University Poll released earlier this week found that half of Americans believe the debt ceiling issue should be dealt with cleanly, while just one in four want to tie it to federal spending negotiations.
At the same time, the public generally has a negative view of how all the players involved have handled the debt ceiling issue, including Biden (34% approve and 55% disapprove), the Democrats in Congress (32% approve and 55% disapprove), and the Republicans in Congress (29% approve and 60% disapprove).
The poll was conducted by telephone from May 18 to 23, 2023, with 981 adults in the United States. It has a margin of error of +/- 5.6 percentage points.