WASHINGTON (CN) — Refusing to blink amid escalating concerns that partisanship in Congress could lead to a catastrophic default on U.S. debt, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries held fast Friday to Democrats’ position that Washington’s spending limit should be unconditionally increased.
The New York lawmaker reaffirmed his party’s demands during a press conference with reporters Friday, while blasting Republicans’ counteroffer passed in the House this week as irresponsible policy.
“President Biden has produced a budget,” Jeffries said. “House Republicans produced a ransom note.”
The House GOP approved a bill Wednesday staking out their position on increasing the debt ceiling, the government’s self-imposed limit for borrowing money. The proposal would raise federal debt limits for around one year in exchange for a litany of spending cuts.
Both congressional Democrats and the White House have both said that lawmakers should advance a “clean” debt ceiling increase without any extra conditions. Despite urging from GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, President Biden has refused to negotiate on spending cuts, and the administration has blasted the Republican proposal as an attempt to hold the economy hostage in exchange for budget concessions.
If neither side is able to compromise, it could cause the U.S. to default on its debts, incurring serious economic consequences.
Jeffries argued Friday that, if Congress is headed over a debt ceiling cliff, it’s Republicans that are in the driver’s seat.
“America should always pay her bills, full stop,” the minority leader said. “We’ve never defaulted in the history of this country in the manner that is being contemplated by extreme MAGA Republicans in the House of Representatives that will hurt the economy, hurt industry, hurt small businesses and hurt everyday Americans.”
Instead of putting forward what Jeffries said was an unserious and irresponsible debt proposal, he urged collaboration between congressional Republicans and the White House to approve a clean debt ceiling increase and then negotiate spending issues with the administration through the usual budget process.
“The president has continued to make clear that he is willing to talk to anyone on Capitol Hill about the type of spending decisions, investment decisions and revenue decisions that should be made to protect the health, the safety and economic well-being of the American people,” the New York Democrat said. “There is a process for that to occur. It’s called the budget.”
Jeffries complained that, although the White House issued its 2024 federal budget request back in March, the GOP had yet to release its own spending plan and was instead using the debt ceiling debate to sidestep established procedure.
While Jeffries stood firm on Democrats’ debt ceiling stance, he refused to directly answer questions from a reporter about whether he was comfortable with President Biden’s refusal to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy, even if it meant inching the U.S. closer to default.
“I think President Biden’s position is very consistent with President Trump’s position, with Speaker Paul Ryan’s position and with President Ronald Reagan’s position, which is simply that America should pay its bills and avoid a catastrophic and dangerous default,” the minority leader said.
Jeffries noted that congressional Democrats worked with the Trump administration on several occasions to increase federal spending limits. “I’m very comfortable with the notion that, yes, America should always pay its bills, while at the same time engaging in negotiations and discussions around the budget,” he added.
Meanwhile, House Republicans’ debt ceiling patch is on its way to the Senate, which will convene again next week. Speaker McCarthy positioned it Wednesday as the White House’s only chance to increase federal spending limits. “If you want to raise the debt ceiling, sign this bill,” the California Republican said.
Despite that, the measure is likely dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled upper chamber — and even if it manages to defy the odds, President Biden has stated that he would veto the bill.Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
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