Biden touts bipartisanship in Oval Office speech on debt ceiling deal

WASHINGTON — In his first address from the Oval Office, President Joe Biden on Friday night commended House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on the bipartisan budget and debt ceiling agreement passed by Congress this week.

The 12-minute speech centered on how the bipartisan effort "averted economic crisis," with a prominent nod to Republican negotiators led by McCarthy.

"Our teams were able to get along, get things done, were straightforward with one another, completely honest with one another, respectful with one another. Both sides operated in good faith. Both sides kept their word," Biden said of the bill that will cut spending and extend the debt ceiling for two years.

He also extended commendations to other congressional leaders in both parties, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

"Passing this budget agreement was critical. The stakes could not have been higher," Biden said.

"No one got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed. We averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse."

Biden said he plans to sign the bill into law on Saturday.

US President Joe Biden sits at his desk ahead of addressing the nation on averting default and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, June 2, 2023. (Jim Watson / Pool via AFP - Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden sits at his desk ahead of addressing the nation on averting default and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, June 2, 2023. (Jim Watson / Pool via AFP - Getty Images)

The bipartisan budget agreement passed by a final vote of 63-36 in the Senate on Thursday night.

“Senators from both parties voted to protect the hard-earned economic progress we have made and prevent a first-ever default by the United States,” Biden said in a statement overnight.

Its companion bill in the Republican-led House, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, passed by a final vote of 314-117 on Wednesday.

“It protects the core pillars of my Investing in America agenda that is creating good jobs across the country, fueling a resurgence in manufacturing, rebuilding our infrastructure and advancing clean energy," as well as programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, Biden said in the statement. “It protects my student debt relief plan for hardworking borrowers. And it honors America’s sacred obligation to our veterans by fully funding veterans’ medical care.”

Much of Biden's speech on Friday struck a similar tone by highlighting accomplishments during his administration, including passage of the infrastructure law and legislation to increase production of computer chips and keep the U.S. competitive with China, the world's second largest economy.

At one point during the campaign-style remarks, Biden criticized Republicans for defending what he called "special interest tax loopholes" for certain industries. "But I’m going to be coming back," he said, in an apparent reference to the 2024 race. "And with your help, I’m going to win.”

He also referred to his 2020 campaign, saying, "When I ran for president, I was told Democrats and Republicans could no longer work together. But I refuse to believe that, because America can never give into that way of thinking."

Biden brokered the deal with McCarthy after promising that he would not negotiate over the debt ceiling, a posture he maintained even as the leaders hashed out a plan to slash the federal budget. The cuts angered members of both parties, with some Republicans insisting they were not severe enough, while Democrats arguing they went too far.

Looming over the talks was the rapidly approaching threat of economic catastrophe as the government warned that it would soon run out of money to pay its bills.

Fitch Ratings, a top credit rating agency, which put the U.S. on negative watch last week, said Friday that it was keeping the federal government’s credit rating at a perfect AAA, but will keep it on negative watch through the third quarter of this year, noting “steady deterioration in governance over the last 15 years.”

In response, Treasury Department spokeswoman Lily Adams noted that the debt ceiling bill passed with "a broad bipartisan majority of both chambers," calling it a "fiscally responsible" measure that "will continue to meet all of our commitments."

"The Treasury market remains the safest, deepest and most liquid market in the world," Adams added.

Last month Biden cut short an overseas visit to return to the table in Washington as the clock wound down.

Throughout the fraught talks, Biden weighed using his powers to raise the government’s borrowing limit unilaterally by invoking the 14th Amendment, a move that would have relied on an untested legal theory but that some Democrats have urged the president to seriously consider.

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