Republicans stand firm in demanding debt ceiling deal with Biden

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Major Republicans on Sunday criticized President Biden for refusing to negotiate a debt ceiling deal, renewing his threats to leverage the fiscally dire prospect of default to secure White House spending cuts.

The party has asserted its political demands as Biden prepares to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) obligations.

The emerging and potentially catastrophic impasse concerns the maximum amount the US government can borrow to pay its existing bills. Congress must act to raise or lift that limit, known as the debt limit, or risk pushing the United States into a recession with global implications, according to leading economists and administration officials.

The country’s debt – now more than $31 trillion – is the result of decades of spending passed by lawmakers from both parties. But Republicans, who took control of the House this month, have tried to place the blame entirely on Democrats, who have vowed to pursue sharp new cuts in federal spending this year.

“You can’t just raise the debt limit and let President Biden continue to spend like he has,” said House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures” program. .

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Nancy Mace (RS.C.) said Republicans had to grab the debt ceiling because “clearly the budget process isn’t working.”

“There’s no time like the present because we have the debt ceiling hanging over us to talk about it,” she said.

On January 22, members of the House and Senate discussed their approach to the debt ceiling negotiations. (Video: Blair Guild/The Washington Post)

Even Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia, a key member of Biden’s party, has signaled an interest in holding spending talks. In a possible break with other Democrats, the centrist told CNN it would be a “mistake” for the president not to discuss some cuts with his GOP colleagues — particularly with a focus on eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.

The dispute sets the stage for a high-stakes political battle in the coming months, when the United States must exhaust all its remaining special budget moves to avoid a government default. In a letter to lawmakers last week, Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said these “extraordinary measures” could prop up federal finances until at least early June, a timeline that prompted Congressional Democrats to issue their own urgent notes for action on Sunday.

“We shouldn’t play with the national debt,” Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Biden should “absolutely” not negotiate with Republicans.

The US government has never defaulted in its history – and even the mere prospect of default has taken a toll on the economy. A similar showdown between Republican lawmakers and the Democratic-led White House in 2011 roiled markets, worsened the country’s credit and cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. The provocation only ended after President Barack Obama struck a deal with GOP lawmakers that capped spending for a decade, leading to what Democrats have long described as crippling deficiencies in federal health, science, education and labor agencies.

This year, Republicans are seeking a similar deal under McCarthy — but Democrats have remained steadfast in their refusal to accept the GOP’s demands. On Friday, the White House confirmed that Biden plans, for the time being, to sit down with the Speaker of the House to discuss “a range of issues,” including the looming spending struggle. But press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also emphasized in a statement that “raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation,” citing the prospect of “economic chaos” if Republicans try to enforce the upcoming fiscal deadline for political gain.

Biden Advisers Want to Force GOP to Drop Debt Limit Threats

Biden, for his part, has recently emphasized Republicans’ contributions to the country’s debt. Speaking at the White House on Friday, the president said that about a quarter of the US debt over the last 200 years came “in the four years of my predecessor”, referring to former President Donald Trump. And other Democrats pointed to the fact that they cast their votes — without demands — to raise the debt ceiling during the Trump administration.

One of the leading moderate Republicans, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), said earlier Sunday on “Fox News Sunday” that it would be a “problem” if Biden did not engage Republicans in an era of divided government. A co-chair of the bipartisan Troubleshooters group, Fitzpatrick said he is working on legislation to try to resolve the impasse. He was joined by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ), a moderate Democrat, and said the two want to put “meat on those bones” of this proposal.

Fitzpatrick said the draft bill would change the debt ceiling from a “numerical dollar amount” to a measure of debt as a percentage of gross domestic product. If that percentage passes a certain threshold, a “healing period” would begin, the congressman said, noting that “if that healing doesn’t happen, certain budget reforms will automatically kick in.”

“Nobody should take the position that we shouldn’t negotiate,” Fitzpatrick said.

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