Debt Ceiling Battle Lines Drawn Ahead Of White House Meeting

Republicans are voicing confidence as Democrats appear to be digging in ahead of a meeting planned for Tuesday at the White House on raising the debt ceiling.

In an appearance Sunday on CBS News, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, explained why he is less pessimistic about negotiations than he was just two months ago.

“Instead of being at the depths of the ocean, I’m merely drowning,” McHenry told “Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan.

McHenry, a close ally to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), attributed his boost in confidence to the House passing a bill — albeit narrowly and without any support from Democrats.

“President Biden has to come to the table for a negotiated solution. He needs to listen to his economic advisors, not his political advisors, and take this very seriously, given the late stage that we’re currently at,” McHenry said.

“Instead of being at the depths of the ocean, I’m merely drowning,” says Rep. @PatrickMcHenry (R-NC), Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, when asked by @margbrennan about his confidence level regarding bipartisan debt ceiling negotiations.

— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) May 7, 2023

The GOP legislation, called the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023,” would suspend the debt ceiling through March 31, 2024, or until an increase in debt of $1.5 trillion over the current limit of roughly $31.4 trillion — whichever comes first — in exchange for a host of spending cuts that take aim at several leftist priorities.

In the upper chamber, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) talked about how at least 43 Republicans have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) declaring their opposition to a “clean” debt ceiling bill separate from any spending cuts or any policy concessions that is favored by President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats in Congress.

“As Kevin McCarthy, as speaker of the House, meets with the White House, it’s imperative that he arrives in a position of negotiating power,” Lee said on “Sunday Morning Futures.” “And to that end, we’ve got not only the Republican conference in the Senate backing what the Republicans in the House passed the week before last, we’ve also got a solid bloc of Republicans, more than enough, to block any sort of so-called ‘clean’ debt ceiling bill from going forward, anything that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budgetary reforms.”

To combat the House GOP proposal, Schumer announced the Senate would hold hearings on the bill to “expose the true impact of this reckless legislation on everyday Americans.”

On the House side, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries told “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd on Sunday he does not accept the premise that Democrats are not going to get a clean debt ceiling hike. “We have a constitutional responsibility to make sure that we protect the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” Jeffries added on NBC News.

Jeffries called the bill passed by the GOP-led House a “ransom note” and also dismissed the idea of a short-term “punt” to essentially lift the debt ceiling for a few months while talks continue.

“I don’t think the responsible thing to do is to kick the can down the road,” he said, adding later that the nation has to avoid a default, “period.”

EXCLUSIVE: Would House Democrats support a short-term punt on the debt ceiling?@RepJeffries (D-N.Y.): “I don’t think the responsible thing is to kick the can down the road.”@chucktodd: “Are you ruling it out?”

Jeffries: “We have to avoid default, period.”

— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) May 7, 2023

The White House announced the meeting on Tuesday with congressional leaders of both parties after  Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced last week that the United States risks defaulting on its debt as early as June 1 as the “extraordinary measures” being taken to ensure the government can continue to pay its bills begin to lose steam.

A major escalation could arise from an idea entertained by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who told MSNBC that Biden has the authority to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling. “I think he has that authority under these circumstances, absolutely, because the Congress has put him in a constitutionally untenable position,” he told MSNBC host Jen Psaki, a former Biden spokesperson.

.@jrpsaki Do you think President Biden has the authority to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling on its own? @RepRaskin: “I think he has that authority under these circumstances, absolutely. The Congress has put him in a constitutionally untenable position.”

— Inside with Jen Psaki (@InsideWithPsaki) May 7, 2023

Section Four of the 14th Amendment states the “validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

During an appearance Sunday on ABC News, Yellen warned against the use of the 14th Amendment, saying it would risk a “constitutional crisis.”

The treasury secretary also suggested Republican lawmakers were trying to do negotiations with a “gun to the head of the American people” and explained the consequences if the United States defaults on its obligations.

“A failure of the United States to honor all of its debt would call into question our creditworthiness. Even as we get very close to this date, if Congress doesn’t act, we’re likely to see financial market consequences,” Yellen said on “This Week,” adding that if the U.S. is downgraded by credit rating agencies there would be “permanently higher borrowing costs for Americans for buying a home, buying a car, and a failure to raise the debt ceiling would cause a steep economic downturn.”

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