Biden says Republicans must move from 'extreme positions' in debt ceiling talks
WASHINGTON − President Joe Biden on Sunday lambasted proposals put forward by Republicans in debt ceiling negotiations as "unacceptable" and said he "can't guarantee" Republicans won't force a default after talks deteriorated sharply over the weekend.
"Now it's time for the other side to move from their extreme positions because much of what they've already proposed is simply, quite frankly, unacceptable," Biden said at a press conference in Hiroshima, Japan.
In his most blunt remarks so far on stalled negotiations, Biden said he won't accept a deal that protects a "$30 billon tax break for the oil industry," targets Medicaid, jeopardizes the jobs of teachers and law enforcement officers and "protects wealthy tax cheats and crypto traders" while putting food assistance at risk for low-income Americans.
"It's time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely on their partisan terms. They have to move as well," Biden said.
Biden to call McCarthy
Biden said White House negotiators introduced a proposal that cuts spending by more than $1 trillion but said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republicans have balked at Democratic proposals to increase revenue through increased taxes on the wealthiest Americans and corporations. The White House wants to end some of the tax cuts passed in 2017 during the Trump administration.
"We are willing to cut spending as well as raise revenue so people start paying their fair share again," Biden said.
The White House is racing to secure a deal on spending so that Republicans in Congress will agree to raise the debt ceiling to avert a potential default that could happen as early as June 1, when the U.S. is projected to run out of money.
Biden, who is set to return to the White House later Sunday, said he plans to call House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Air Force One during his return flight to Washington.
"I'm hoping that Speaker McCarthy is just waiting to negotiate with me when I get home," Biden said, adding: "I don't know whether that's true or not. We'll find out."
'No acceptable outcomes'
McCarthy, speaking on Fox News, said negotiations can't re-start until Biden is back in the country; Air Force One flew back from Japan on Sunday. The GOP speaker also said spending remains the main Republican issue of debt ceiling talks.
"It's a sheer spending problem," McCarthy said.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, appearing on NBC's Meet The Press, said the true deadline for when the federal government runs out of money to pay its bills is up in the air and could conceivably extend beyond June 1 - but not for long.
"The odds of reaching June 15th, while being able to pay all of our bills, is quite low,” she said.
Yellen also echoed warnings about a default that would gut markets worldwide and probably hasten a recession. She told NBC a default would cripple existing government programs, from Social Security and Medicare to military pay.
"There can be no acceptable outcomes if the debt ceiling isn't raised, regardless of what decisions we make," Yellen said.
Will Biden use the 14th amendment to raise debt ceiling?
Sticking points in negotiations include Republican proposals for expanded work requirements for welfare recipients, permitting reform for oil and gas projects, caps on future discretionary spending and rescinding unspent COVID-19 rescue funds.
In a new proposal Saturday, Republicans also called for an increase to defense spending, which the White House said would result in further cuts to domestic programs in education and health care.
Several Democratic allies in Congress have urged Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to work around the debt ceiling and avoid a government default without action from Congress.
"I think we have the authority," Biden said of bypassing Congress through the 14th Amendment. But he added that "the question is" whether it could be invoked in time to withstand potential litigation that could compromise the June 1 deadline.
“I can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t force a default by doing something outrageous," Biden said of Republicans in Congress, but pointed to commitments from McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that the U.S. won't default. "I'm assuming that we mean what we say, and we'll figure out a way to not have to default."
But Biden questioned the motives of "MAGA Republicans" in Congress, accusing them of trying to benefit politically from the economic devastation of a default.
"Because I am president, and a president is responsible for everything, Biden would take the blame and that's the one way to make sure Biden's not reelected," he said.
Contributing: David Jackson
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.