Biden asks GOP to show hand on cuts for debt ceiling deal

Hoping plan unpopular enough to force accord

- Joey Garrison

WASHINGTON – As President Joe Biden welcomes Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for a highly anticipate­d one-on-one meeting Wednesday, the White House is making one thing clear: There will be no negotiatio­ns on the debt ceiling.

Biden has drawn a hard line against entertaini­ng spending cuts pushed by House Republican­s amid their brinkmansh­ip on raising the amount the U.S. can borrow.

It reflects a broader White House strategy. When Republican­s reveal the domestic programs they want to cut, the White House is counting on the move proving so unpopular that enough House Republican­s will abandon their demands for Congress to act.

The latest on the debt limit fight and timeline

⬤ ‘Extraordin­ary measures’: The U.S. hit the $31.8 billion ceiling limit Jan. 19 on how much the federal government is allowed to borrow, prompting Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to take “extraordin­ary measures” to pay the nation’s bills amid inaction by Congress.

⬤ Uncertaint­y beyond June: Although it’s unclear how long the Treasury Department can avoid defaulting on the debt, the government is expected to be able to keep operating until at least early June.

⬤ GOP targets spending: McCarthy and House Republican­s are looking to eliminate what they call “wasteful spending in Washington” as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling. But they’ve not presented a unified plan identifyin­g which programs they want cut.

⬤ A potential ‘calamity’: Biden has warned of an economic “calamity” if Congress fails to raise the debt limit and the U.S. goes into default for the first time. Economists warn it could plunge the economy into a deep recession.

Lessons from 2011: Inside the White House strategy

Biden and Democrats are haunted by the debt ceiling standoff of 2011, when then-Vice President Biden in the Obama presidency convened a bipartisan group of lawmakers as Republican­s in a new GOP-controlled House demanded deficit reduction.

Although a full-scale crisis including default was averted when Obama agreed to $2 trillion in spending cuts, there was damage nonetheles­s: The U.S. experience­d its first credit rating downgrade and the stock market plunged.

Obama and Biden learned a lesson and made a pledge, according to a White House official: Never again negotiate to raise the debt limit.

In turn, McCarthy is pointing to the same talks 12 years ago to make the case that negotiatio­ns over spending cuts should take place again.

“He literally led the talks in 2011 and he praised having those talks,” McCarthy said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” when asked whether he believes Biden will look at spending. “This is what he’s always done in the past.”

But the White House cites congressio­nal precedent to argue the debt limit should be lifted without conditions.

Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960, White House officials like to note, including 49 times under Republican presidents, 29 times under Democratic presidents and during divided government­s like today.

Three of those times came when Donald Trump was president with votes from Republican­s and Democrats in Congress.


The White House is daring McCarthy and Republican­s to reveal a plan for spending cuts.

“Show me your budget, I’ll show you mine,” Biden said Monday ahead of his meeting with McCarthy.

Until Republican­s do, expect Biden to keep warning that Medicare and Social Security could be on the chopping block, even though McCarthy has vowed neither program will be touched.

As the risk of default draws closer in the months ahead, the Biden administra­tion believes Americans will view the Republican brinkmansh­ip more unfavorabl­y – as willing to jeopardize the economy and cut popular programs for ideologica­l goals.

McCarthy, in the same interview Sunday on “Face the Nation,” said, “We’re not going to default.”

But McCarthy faces pressure to satisfy concerns of hard-line conservati­ves in his caucus, who stalled his election as speaker earlier this year and now want spending concession­s.

For Biden, it’s a major risk to assume House Republican­s will be the first to blink.

What Biden plans to ask McCarthy

⬤ In a memo Tuesday, the White House outlined two questions Biden will pose to McCarthy. 1. “Will the Speaker commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its obligation­s?” 2. “When will Speaker McCarthy and House Republican­s release their Budget?”

⬤ Biden will release his budget March 9, according to the memo from Brian Deese, director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, director of the Office of Management and Budget.

⬤ Conservati­ve lawmakers have shown no signs of budging. “We’re 31+ trillion in debt and the Biden White House still wants us to raise the debt ceiling,” Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., said in a tweet Monday. “If we can’t say no now, when else can we?”

Why it matters

Raising the debt ceiling has emerged as Biden’s first major fight in a divided Congress, and the fate of the economy could be at stake.

Economic repercussi­ons would quickly mount, putting the nation at risk of a deep recession, if the Treasury Department is unable to pays its obligation­s, according to the Brookings Institutio­n. Even if an impasse is quickly resolved, more than 2.5 million jobs could be lost if the debt ceiling isn’t lifted, a 2013 study from Macroecono­mic Advisers found.

Some financial experts say the White House could have options to raise the debt limit unilateral­ly, without congressio­nal action. The Washington Post broke down some of the maneuvers that include far-fetched ideas such as minting a new platinum coin, breaking the debt limit by citing other federal spending laws, or invoking the 14th Amendment and its requiremen­t of equal protection for all citizens.

For now, the White House isn’t discussing any plan B to raise the debt ceiling. Instead, it appears convinced it can win a standoff with Republican­s.

 ?? JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY ?? House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will meet with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss a looming decision about the debt ceiling.
JACK GRUBER/USA TODAY House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will meet with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss a looming decision about the debt ceiling.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States