As Debt Talks Heat Up, Dems Urge Biden to Stick It to GOP
With just two weeks left on the clock, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is finally admitting that “bipartisanship is needed” on the debt ceiling. But is it possible? After weeks of freezing out Republicans, President Joe Biden may be warming to the idea of a deal. Hinting at a new willingness to negotiate, the president told reporters, “… We’re going to come together because there’s no alternative,” agreeing that “it would be catastrophic for the American economy and the American people if we didn’t pay our bills. We have to do the right thing for our country. We have to move on.”
Unfortunately for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Biden’s sudden receptiveness came just as he was boarding a plane for Hiroshima. Still, the president promised to be in “constant contact” with the budget team while he’s in Japan, even going so far as to cancel stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea to make it back to Washington by Sunday.
When push comes to shove, Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, “I’m optimistic that we will get a debt ceiling deal done. But it’s up to Joe Biden,” he explained on Wednesday’s “Washington Watch.” “Is he willing to stop the reckless spending, stop the growth in government, the size of government, get Americans back to work, make it easier for our businesses to prosper? If he does, we’ve got a deal.”
Not so fast, say some Democrats. Annoyed by the president’s agreeability, the party’s Left wing is demanding that Biden hang House Republicans out to dry. “I’m sharing my deep concerns with the people at the table,” Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told reporters, drawing several lines in the sand on the GOP’s spending cuts. A whopping 210 of her House colleagues are even insisting Biden invoke the 14th Amendment and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally. “He has support to say no to the outrageous demands from the radical right,” Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) argued.
To Perkins, it doesn’t sound like Democrats are all that interested in pulling America back from the brink. “When you listen to some of the rhetoric coming out of the Senate [from people like] Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, it’s almost as if they want the economy to crash and burn.”
The idea that Biden would be open to changes like stronger work requirements for government aid infuriated some Democrats. Three days later, the White House walked back his initial open-mindedness. “I’m not going to accept any work requirements that go much beyond what is already. I voted years ago for the work requirements that exist. [I]t’s possible there could be a few others, but not anything of any consequence,” Biden said.
Like most Republicans, Scott believes that American taxpayers shouldn’t be responsible for endless handouts, no strings attached. Under his proposals, “[I]f you’re an able-bodied American, you don’t have young children, you’re going to have to either go to work or you’re not going to be on Medicaid. You’re not going to be on food stamps. You’re not going to be on welfare.” But unfortunately, Perkins said, “We’ve created an environment [since] the Great Society where we’ve been creating this government dependency, and we think we just keep continuing it, thinking the outcome is going to be different, but the results are the same.”
Scott shook his head. “We’ve got to get people back to work. It’s the best thing for them.” Look, he said, “I grew up in a poor family. … I was born to a single mom. She said, ‘I don’t care that we live in public housing. We’re not going to [be on] any government programs. You’re going to go out and you’re going to get a job and you’re going to be successful.’”
And it’s “not just about a paycheck,” Perkins pointed out. “It’s about making a contribution to something that’s bigger than yourself. It’s about self-fulfillment. It’s about purpose, about meaning in life. It’s not just about a paycheck to be able to buy things. And all that’s important and it has its place. But what we are doing is we’re denying a lot of young people by teaching them that the government will take care of them. We’re denying them fulfillment and the possibility of experiencing the American dream.”
Despite the urgency of the situation, Perkins said that the voters who put Republicans in charge of the House should be pleased. “You have to be optimistic with what you see happening among the ranks of Republicans. I mean, I’ve not seen this — where they’re unified and standing firm. Usually they walk to the … negotiation table carrying a white flag.”
Scott agreed, crediting the House Freedom Caucus for taking “the bull by the horns.” “They put out a plan early.” Now it’s time for everyone in the Senate and White House to “get this debt ceiling done, get our country back to work so we can take care of American families. … But we’ve got to get a president that’s going to show up and do his job.”
Bottom line, Perkins asked, “Do you think we get there?” “Yes,” Scott replied. “I think we get there.”
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.