In the shadow of a looming debt ceiling deadline, President Joe Biden gave his first interview in weeks, during which he addressed both the potential for default and a number of other pressing matters, including his ability to win reelection at nearly 82 years old.
Here are a few of the top lines from his sit down with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle.
McCarthy, an honest guy
Biden declined the chance to take a personal jab at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, choosing instead to call him an “honest man.” The two have negotiated formally just once, though McCarthy has been pushing for a followup, and Biden will meet with him and the three other main congressional leaders next week. Instead of teeing off on the speaker, Biden criticized the deal McCarthy cut with his fellow House Republicans to get a debt ceiling hike through their chamber.
“I think he’s in the position, well, he had to make a deal and that was pretty — you know, 15 votes. Fifteen votes that where he had — just about sold away everything that he — at the far, far right,” he said. “There’s the Republican Party and there’s the MAGA Republicans, and the MAGA Republicans really have put him in a position where in order to stay speaker he has to agree — he’s agreed to things that, maybe he believes, but are just extreme.”
No workarounds… yet
The president said he wasn’t ready to try a workaround for raising the debt ceiling, at least not yet. Pressed by Ruhle as to whether he would argue that the debt limit was unconstitutional (as his aides are reportedly considering), he said he had not “gotten there yet.”
“Here’s the deal, I think that — first of all, this is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different group. And I think that we have to make it clear to the American people that I am prepared to negotiate in detail with their budget,” he said. “How much are you going to spend? How much are you going to tax? Where can we cut?”
Age is but a number
It wasn’t all budget and debt talk. Ruhle also pressed Biden about running for a second term when he would be nearly 82 at his reelection. She noted that no one at a Fortune 500 company would consider hiring a CEO at that age. So why, she asked, would voters give him a job?
“Because I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people,” said Biden. “And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office. And I think I’ve proven myself to be honorable as well as also effective.”
All the president’s troops
Biden has faced criticism — from both the right and left — for his administration’s decision to send 1,500 active-duty troops to the southern border ahead of next week’s lifting of the Trump-era health policy known as Title 42. Biden defended the move in the interview, saying more resources are needed to address the influx of migrants and that he has sought help from Congress.
“We’re in a situation now where those 1,500 [troops] at the border, they’re not there to enforce the law, they’re there to free up the border agents that need to be on the border,” Biden said. “And we’re having another thousand people coming in. There are asylum judges to make judgments, to move things along.”
To Hunter’s defense
The president’s son, Hunter Biden, has been embroiled in legal problems. Prosecutors are reportedly close to determining whether the younger Biden will be charged with gun and tax violations, and his defense team has reportedly met with prosecutors.
Biden argued to Ruhle that any federal charges filed against Hunter would not affect his presidency.
“It will not because he has done nothing wrong. And I’m proud of him,” he said.
Beat the Press
When Ruhle pointed out that “sentiment in this country … is not very good,” Biden complained of the negative coverage in the press.
“All they’ve heard is negative news for years,” he said. “Everything is negative. And I’m not being critical of the press. If you turn on the television, the only way you’re going to get a hit is if there’s something negative.”
When asked about his past remarks about the “soul of America,” Biden took the opportunity to take a jab at former President Donald Trump, whom he defeated in 2020 — and who currently leads in Republican primary polls. But Biden did not identify Trump by name.
“We can’t let — we cannot let this election be one where the same man who was president four years ago becomes president again,” he said.
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