Biden Says GOP Is 'Manufacturing a Crisis'
The Debt

Biden Says GOP Is 'Manufacturing a Crisis'

Reuters/Leah Millis

As he prepares to release his budget next week, President Joe Biden is continuing to try to grab the mantle of fiscal responsibility and frame the battle ahead with House Republicans over both a federal spending plan and raising the debt limit.

Biden huddled with Senate Democrats for a strategy lunch session on Thursday and spoke to the House Democratic caucus at a retreat in Baltimore on Wednesday evening. In his Wednesday evening speech, her touted the accomplishments of the last two years, promised lawmakers that he would sell voters on the benefits of major legislation they had passed, repeatedly praised party members for “sticking together” and urged them to continue doing so.

“Our economy is growing at a solid clip. But it’s not an accident. It’s because we’ve all worked together,” he said. “If we did nothing — nothing — but implement what we’ve already passed and let the people know who did it for them, we win. But we’re way beyond that. It’s not just about winning.”

Biden again pledged that his budget proposal next week would cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion over 10 years and sought to contrast his fiscal bona fides with the GOP.

“We're not going to sit here and be lectured by those folks about fiscal responsibility,” he said. “They're sure not acting like the party that cares about fiscal responsibility. Because the truth is, if you look at their record, it's clear they're not the party who cares about fiscal responsibility, especially not when they're threatening our economic recovery by manufacturing a crisis over whether we're going to pay our debts — our 200-year accumulated debt.”

What do Republicans want to cut? Biden has repeatedly called for Republicans to put forth their own budget blueprint. He has sought to gain leverage by asking what will inevitably be a critical question as the two sides square off: What is it that Republicans want to cut? “Are they going to cut Medicaid? Medicaid? Are they going to — Affordable Care Act? Are they going to cut Medicare or veterans benefits? Aid to rural communities? Well, we're going to see what they're going to do,” he said Wednesday.

Republicans, partly as the result of pressure from Biden, have abandoned the idea of cutting Social Security and Medicare. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has said those programs should be left alone even as he presses for spending cuts as a prerequisite for raising the debt limit.

And in a CNBC op-ed on Wednesday, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, backed up that pledge: “As the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee with jurisdiction over the debt ceiling, Social Security, and Medicare, no debt ceiling legislation that passes through my committee will include cuts to these vital programs. Period.”

Smith’s op-ed called for Biden to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, something the White House has insisted it will not do. And the piece again pressed Biden to agree to cut spending. “Simply raising our credit limit without examining ways to reduce inflationary deficit spending means we are just scheduling America’s next debt crisis,” Smith wrote.

For now, though, the two sides are left trying to law blame for any potential crisis.

“The moment to act is now, and Democrats’ failure to engage in meaningful dialogue about our unsustainable spending endangers the federal programs millions of America’s seniors rely on now and benefits they expect in the future,” Smith wrote. “For Washington Democrats to engage in politics as usual is manifesting the very crisis they claim they want to avoid.”

Biden, meanwhile, says that Republicans are precipitating a crisis by holding the debt limit hostage. “Let's be real clear about one thing: There is no actual crisis here,” he told Democrats. “This is entirely a crisis of their making, if it occurs.”

The bottom line: We’re still too far away from a debt limit deadline and too early in the budget process for any potential talks to really heat up. Instead, we’re left with the politicking. “Without many new initiatives to propose, Biden is determined not to see the party backslide into bickering and disappointment,” the AP’s Lisa Mascaro and Seung Min Kim say. “Instead, Democrats appear ready to focus on a Hippocratic oath-style strategy of doing no harm — playing up what they have accomplished so far while portraying Republicans as being led by extremists beholden to the Trump-era ‘Make America Great Again’ agenda.”