WASHINGTON (TUSEN) — President Joe Biden hosts Democratic congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday as they face a new era of divided government in Washington, staring at a debt-ceiling crisis, the Russian war in Ukraine and their own party priorities rising against a new Republican majority in the House that likes to confront.
Ahead of the afternoon session, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said House Republicans are at risk of a potentially devastating default that would ripple through the economy and hit American households.
“We are now witnessing the House GOP flirting recklessly with default,” Schumer said.
Schumer said Democrats are united in pushing to raise the limit and prevent Republicans from imposing draconian cuts on federal programs. “If the MAGA GOP stops paying our country’s bills, Americans will pay the price,” he said, referring to Republicans associated with the Trump-era Make American Great Again movement.
The coming confrontation has a well-known precedent: Just over a decade ago, a new generation of “tea party” Republicans came to power, eager to confront the Obama administration to cut federal spending and reduce the nation’s massive debt burden. to control the country. As vice president at the time, Biden was at the center of those negotiations, but House Republicans and the White House were never able to come to an agreement, sparking a fiscal crisis. Going around, Biden and his Democratic allies in Congress are in no mood to make deals with a new era of hardline Republicans led by the Freedom Caucus.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is eager to push Biden to the negotiating table, hoping to fulfill promises the GOP leader made during his campaign to become House Speaker to reduce federal spending to 2022 fiscal levels, which would be a good 8. % savings.
The White House has not yet invited McCarthy to a meeting, but says it will soon.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” said Texas Senator John Cornyn, a member of the Republican leadership.
In the Senate, Republicans seem more than willing to step aside for now and let McCarthy and the House GOP take the lead in talks with Biden — and wary of embracing the kind of federal spending cuts the GOP of the House wants, but which have little chance of becoming law.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday: “I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the new speaker and his team to put cuts on the table.”
McConnell said of McCarthy’s as-yet-unscheduled session with Biden, “I wish him well and in talking to the president. There is a solution.”
The afternoon meeting between Biden and Democratic leaders comes as the White House opens its doors to a new lawmaker’s reception later Tuesday evening, though many House Republicans say they will not attend because they cannot meet the administration’s demand that visitors must be vaccinated. against the corona virus.
On the debt side, the Treasury Department informed Congress last week that the country has reached its $31 trillion borrowing capacity and will have to raise the limit to continue paying off its already accrued bills. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has launched extraordinary measures routinely used in times like these, but which will expire in June.
Debt has been mounting for years, the last time the federal budget didn’t run red ink deficits was during the Clinton years. Instead, the George W. Bush administration saw debt skyrocket thanks to tax cuts and the wars abroad. Debt grew again in the Barack Obama era, especially in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
The 2011 negotiations focused on a $1-for-$1 trade-off of cuts to new debt, but the parties could never agree on the size and scope of cuts to federal health care, the military, infrastructure, and other bills. So far, the Biden administration has refused to interact with House Republicans.
Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., the chairman of the finance committee, said his party learned its lessons from negotiating the debt ceiling with Republicans in 2011.
“We know what happened. It almost ditched the economy,” Wyden said. “That’s the lesson.”
One idea discussed was for Congress to create some kind of debt panel, much like the failed “Supercommittee” that tried to agree on ways to cut federal spending in the aftermath of the 2011 talks.
“The bottom line is, can we find a way forward before all the theatrics kick in?” said Senator Joe Manchin, the conservative West Virginia Democrat known for crossing party lines. “We know we will pass it. It’s just how much pain you want to inflict on people.”
The US Express News writers Josh Boak, Kevin Freking and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.