After 43 GOP senators sign Lee’s letter, Biden has little choice but to negotiate on debt ceiling
With President Joe Biden set to meet Tuesday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to discuss a debt ceiling increase, a letter signed by 43 Republican senators puts additional pressure on the president to agree to cuts as part of the negotiations.
The letter, sent to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, was initiated by Utah Sen. Mike Lee. It says Republicans in the Senate are “united behind the House Republican conference in support of spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling.”
With 43 senators signing on to the letter, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Schumer is unlikely to have the votes to move a condition-free debt ceiling bill to a vote.
Biden has said repeatedly that he wants a “clean” bill — meaning a bill that only raises the debt limit and has no conditions attached. He has threatened to veto the House bill that raises the debt ceiling but also includes spending cuts and other reforms.
Lee and other senators say they won’t raise the debt limit without “substantive spending and budget reforms.”
“The House has taken a responsible first step in coming to the table with their proposals. It is imperative that the president now do the same,” the letter from 43 Senate Republicans says.
43 Senate Republicans have signed a letter refusing to advance any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.
The White House is going to have to come to the table and have real talks with @SpeakerMcCarthy. pic.twitter.com/QLwKdUwFQ9
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) May 7, 2023
In an interview with KSL Radio’s Boyd Matheson on Monday, Lee said Republicans were looking to help calm inflation through debt ceiling negotiations, because the government has been “effectively printing more money.”
“The whole reason why we’re in all this trouble with inflation is because of runaway spending,” he said. “That’s all we’re trying to fix at the end of the day.”
Lee called the House Republican bill a “great piece of legislation.”
The bill, called the “Limit, Save, Grow Act,” increases the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for $4.8 trillion in cuts over the next 10 years. The savings come from provisions like ending Biden’s student loan cancelation program, returning discretionary spending to 2022 levels, repealing green energy tax credits and expanding work requirements for federal programs like Medicaid and food stamps.
Democrats have blasted the bill over the cuts included. At a press conference, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries called the bill a “ransom note,” and repeated Biden’s assertion that Democrats would negotiate over spending only as part of the budget process and not as part of negotiations over a debt limit increase.
Republicans have expressed frustration that Biden has been slow to respond to their request to negotiate over the debt limit. At the end of March, McCarthy sent a letter to Biden saying the president was “putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy” because of his unwillingness to come to the negotiating table.
During an appearance Sunday on ABC News’ “This Week”, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated her warning that the nation will run out of cash by June 1 unless Congress raises the debt limit. She seemed to dismiss the suggestion floated by Democrats that the president could use the 14th Amendment, which contains a clause about public debt, to force an increase in the amount of debt the government can hold.
“There is no way to protect our financial system and our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling and enabling us to pay our bills,” she said.
On Friday, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney said it is “frustrating” that the White House has refused to negotiate.
“The nature of a democratic republic like ours is that when you have two parties — and in particular when you have one party that controls the House, and the other controls the White House — they have to work together and meet some place in the middle,” he said in an interview with the Deseret News.