Home » Biden puts the screws to McCarthy on default

Biden puts the screws to McCarthy on default

To Biden’s point, House Republicans keep moving the goalpost on the so-called “spending cuts” they are demanding as Biden and the White House continue making their targets too politically toxic to touch.

In February, the president took Social Security and Medicare cuts off the table when he cornered Republicans on live television during his State of the Union address.  

The next GOP target to go down was veterans’ benefits. Democrats and the White House began hammering House Republicans on the deeply unpopular cuts immediately after they pushed through the debt ceiling package that would cut non-defense funding in FY 2024 by roughly 22%.

“It’s cruel and it hurts our heroes,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California said at a press conference with veterans groups following the vote.

Biden sent out a tweet from the @POTUS account with illuminating graphics and the simple question: Did you vote for a bill that cuts domestic spending by 22%? For those who answered “Yes,” a series of red arrows led to the statement, “You voted to CUT veterans’ benefits.” For those who voted “No,” red arrows led to the statement, “You voted to PROTECT veterans’ benefits.”


Even House Republicans could read that graphic: 217 of them had voted to cut veterans’ benefits while all 211 Democrats had voted to protect them. (Retreat!)

Within days of the supposed “win” for McCarthy, House Republicans pushed out a press release promising that “absolutely NO CUTS” to the VA or veterans’ benefits were in the bill.

Given the GOP retreat, The New York Times’ Upshot went to work figuring out roughly how deeply Republicans would have to cut other domestic programs in order to reach their fiscal goals if Social Security, Medicare, veterans’ medical care, and homeland security were exempted. Forget 22%—the budget for every other domestic program would have to be slashed by roughly 51%.

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On Wednesday, Biden took the potentially catastrophic fallout of a Republican failure to raise the debt ceiling on the road to New York’s Hudson Valley, currently represented by freshman GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, one of the House GOP’s most vulnerable members next year.

Biden appeared to woo Lawler’s defection from the House caucus party line, saying he was the “kind of Republican I was used to dealing with … not one of these MAGA Republicans.” Biden’s light touch with Lawler was at odds with a statement put out by Democrat Liz Gereghty, who announced a bid Tuesday to unseat the GOP Congressman. Gereghty said Lawler was enabling “extreme” Republicans in Congress who are “threatening our core rights, our safety, and our economic future.”

Still, Biden called the GOP’s failure to raise the ceiling a “manufactured crisis.”

“There’s no question about America’s ability to pay its bills,” Biden told the crowd at SUNY Westchester Community College in Valhalla. “America has the strongest economy in the world, and we should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis.”

Biden laid out the potential consequences of default: higher interest rates for credit cards, car loans, and mortgages; delayed payments for Social Security, Medicare, U.S. troops, and veterans; 8 million American jobs lost, according to Moody’s Analytics, and a recession.

Republicans and Donald Trump, Biden said, bear plenty of the blame for the country’s current debts.

“The last administration alone — the last guy who served in this office for four years — increased the total national debt by 40% in just four years,” Biden said. “Over the last decade, the single largest contribution to the debt, aside from the pandemic, were the Trump tax cuts.”

Biden noted that, following Tuesday’s White House meeting with congressional leaders, McConnell told reporters the U.S. would not default on its debts. “It never had and it never will.”

Biden, who is likely trying to preserve an outside chance of brokering a last-minute deal with McConnell, said he was “pleased but not surprised” by McConnell’s comments.

In contrast, Biden said Speaker Kevin McCarthy was under the thumb of MAGA Republicans.

“They’ve taken control,” Biden said. “They have a Speaker who has his job because he yielded to the, quote, ‘MAGA’ element of the party.”

Little of what Biden said was actually new, but Biden’s venue—a moderate New York district that he won by double digits in 2020—was clearly an effort to peel off one of several New York Republicans who will be fighting tooth and nail for their seats next year. The defection of even two or three endangered Republicans could send McCarthy’s plan into a death spiral.

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