(CN) — Speaking before an audience of New York stockbrokers, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy blasted the White House on Monday for refusing to negotiate on a plan that would raise the government’s debt limit.
“I met with President Biden at the White House on Feb. 1 — 75 days ago,” the California Republican said during a speech delivered at the New York Stock Exchange in Manhattan. “Unfortunately, I haven’t heard from the White House since our first meeting. President Biden has been missing in action and misleading the public.”
Time is running out for Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling — a self-imposed limit for government spending that, if crossed, could cause the U.S. to default on its debt and cause serious harm to the economy. Republicans have said that they would support raising the ceiling only if certain federal spending cuts are included, but the White House has refused to use the debt limit as a bargaining chip for the GOP to extract concessions.
On Wall Street this afternoon, McCarthy reiterated his party’s stance.
“Defaulting on our debt is not an option,” the House speaker said, “but neither is a future of higher taxes, higher interest rates, higher inflation, more dependence on China and an economy that doesn’t work for working Americans. Let me be clear: a no-strings attached debt limit increase cannot pass.”
Until the White House chooses to negotiate, House Republicans are preparing to bring forward a bill outlining a one-year debt ceiling increase and a wish list of spending cuts aimed at forcing a compromise out of President Biden.
Outlining the GOP’s spending plan, McCarthy noted that it would return federal spending to 2022 levels, and then limit growth to just 1% annually over the next decade. The measure, which has yet to be formally unveiled, would also reinstitute work requirements for welfare programs that the House speaker argued should incentivize Americans to get jobs.
McCarthy pushed back on arguments that Republicans’ proposed debt ceiling conditions would weaken U.S. social welfare programs or impose draconian limits on government spending. “The bloated, overgrown bureaucracy that has expanded under President Biden needs to be pruned, and that’s exactly what we’ll do,” the speaker said.
McCarthy urged Wall Street to put pressure on the White House to negotiate with Republicans, hanging the threat of default in the balance. “Join us in demanding a reasonable negotiation and responsible debt ceiling agreement that brings spending under control,” he said.
Even if the Republican proposal passes the House, it is unlikely to survive the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Democratic congressional leadership Monday blasted McCarthy’s speech as vague and reckless.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporter during a Monday press conference that he and President Biden would be happy to meet once McCarthy provides the details of Republicans’ spending plan. “He went all the way to Wall Street and gave us no more details, no more facts, no new information at all," said Schumer.
The New York Democrat painted a bleak picture of what he called McCarthy’s debt ceiling brinkmanship. “I’ll be blunt," he said. "If Speaker McCarthy continues in this direction, we are headed to default.”
Representative Rosa DeLauro, ranking member of the House Committee on Appropriations, slammed McCarthy for what she saw as hypocrisy in the speaker’s policy toward federal spending limits.
“The Speaker did not express concerns when the House voted three times to raise the debt limit under President Trump,” the Connecticut Democrat wrote in a statement. “This narrow, extreme partisan approach risks economic tumult, higher interest rates, and increased prices.”
DeLauro called on McCarthy to accept a clean debt ceiling increase and abandon plans to tack on spending cuts.
“Raising the debt ceiling is an obligation we have as Members of Congress,” the lawmaker wrote. “Democrats and Republicans have acted in the public interest every time it was necessary.”
Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960.Follow @@BenjaminSWeiss
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