President Joe Biden on Sunday hailed the bipartisan deal he struck with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the debt ceiling, saying it’s ready to move forward for congressional approval, but he also pushed back against criticism that he made too many concessions in the process.
Speaking from the White House Roosevelt Room, Biden acknowledged that neither side got everything it wanted out of the deal, but he insisted “I did not negotiate on the debt ceiling” with Republicans.
“You want to try to make it look like I made some compromise on the debt ceiling — I didn’t. I made a compromise on the budget,” he told reporters.
Biden said Republicans wanted to pass a debt ceiling on condition of a budget “with all these cuts in it.”
“I said ‘I’m not going to do that. You pass the debt ceiling, period,’” he said, and then he’d negotiate separately on the budget.
The White House and Republican congressional leaders reached a tentative deal late Saturday evening, that was being finalized on Sunday, to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, narrowly averting a default just days before the projected June 5 deadline.
Asked whether he thought it was time to get rid of the debt ceiling, Biden said that doing so would “cause more controversy” but did not rule it out as a future option.
“I am exploring the idea that we would, at a later date — a year or two from now — decide whether or not the 14th Amendment, how that actually would impact whether or not you need to do the debt limit every year,” Biden said.
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The agreement lifts the debt ceiling and holds spending flat through the 2024 presidential election, while allowing non-defense spending to increase by 1 percent in 2025. The deal also imposes new work requirements on TANF and SNAP assistance programs, clawbacks billions of dollars in unspent Covid relief funds, pairs down Biden’s plan to dramatically expand the IRS and codifies the administration’s plan to restart federal student loan payments at the end of the summer.
Negotiators worked through the night to finalize the legislative text of the deal and were expected to share it with lawmakers Sunday evening.
Although Biden and McCarthy projected confidence on Sunday that the bill would clear the House, the agreement is facing objections on both sides of the aisle. Conservatives were quick to criticize the agreement for not cutting spending more aggressively, while progressive Democrats have expressed some concerns about work requirements and other spending priorities.
Asked Sunday about criticism from Hill Democrats who said the deal would mean some low-income Americans could go hungry, Biden called that a “ridiculous assertion.” He also said he did not regret starting negotiations with Republicans sooner.
“It wouldn’t have made any difference,” he said.
Top White House aides spent much of Sunday calling Democratic lawmakers to shore up support for the bill. Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young, National Economic Council Deputy Director Aviva Aron-Dine and senior adviser on climate John Podesta virtually briefed House Democrats on the agreement on Sunday evening, while counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti, senior adviser and infrastructure coordinator Mitch Landrieu and National Economic Council director Lael Brainard also called lawmakers individually throughout the day.
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