Pick Your Debt Ceiling Fighter: Joe Biden Or Kevin '15th Time's The Charm' McCarthy!

Pick Your Debt Ceiling Fighter: Joe Biden Or Kevin '15th Time's The Charm' McCarthy!

President Joe Biden remains in the superior position for negotiating the necessary debt ceiling increase. He's not the one who'd have to literally shoot the hostage. That's Hardly Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has expertly maneuvered himself in a place to either fold at the last minute or trigger a global economic catastrophe. Biden clearly has the high ground.

The president exerted his dominance Tuesday when the White House sent McCarthy a memo ahead of their scheduled meeting today asking that Republicans detail the cuts they're demanding in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. He also wants a commitment from McCarthy that he won't allow a disastrous government default, which is the sort of thing you have to ask an idiot who takes his orders from even bigger idiots.


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McCarthy has so far only vaguely discussed cutting “wasteful spending,” a generic catchall from rightwingers who want to slash every existing social program and keep the poor fighting over prime sleeping spots under local bridges. Biden wants to force McCarthy to deal in specifics. Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, state in the memo that Biden has an actual budget, which he'll release on March 9, and McCarthy should come prepared with more than doodles on a cocktail napkin.

From the New York Times:

“It is essential that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit — whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education and public safety — as well as how much their budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations,” Ms. Young and Mr. Deese wrote.

Please go forth, Mr. Speaker, and tell the voters the many ways you plan to screw them over.

McCarthy responded to the memo with a characteristically peevish tweet that read: “I received your staff’s memo. I’m not interested in political games. I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”

All McCarthy does is play political games. He's not any good at them, though, which might explain his lack of interest. He should've just pretended not to have seen the memo. That might’ve bought him another couple weeks. Obviously, McCarthy isn’t interested in actual negotiation, certainly not on behalf of the American people. He’s doing the bidding of his party's growing nihilist caucus.

The US government banged its head on the debt ceiling last month. Biden has said repeatedly that he's not negotiating over whether to raise it, because he understands that you have to pay your existing bills before you can debate how to spend your next paycheck.

McCarthy however has threatened not to raise the debt limit unless the White House agrees to steep cuts in federal spending. Will this impact Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, or defense? That all depends on which Republican is talking.

None of the proposed cuts are popular and they become even less so when discussed out loud. Biden standing firm on Social Security and Medicare is a political winner, which is why McCarthy keeps whining that Biden refusing to budge is "irresponsible." His gambit only works if he can keep the spending cuts vague and the negotiations private. Biden isn't having it, and the egg timer on McCarthy's speakership will soon reveal that he's fully cooked.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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