McCarthy Attaches Big Asterisk to Debt Talks

He demands White House cap future federal spending, accused Biden of 'hiding' on issue
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 17, 2023 2:13 PM CDT
McCarthy Attaches Big Asterisk to Debt Talks
Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy during an event at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, April 17, 2023.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy pledged on Monday to pass legislation to raise the nation's debt ceiling—but only on condition of capping future federal spending increases at 1%—as he lashed out at President Biden for refusing to engage in budget-cutting negotiations to prevent a debt crisis. In a high-profile speech at the New York Stock Exchange, McCarthy, the Republican leader who was marking his 100th day as speaker, said the nation’s debt load is a “ticking time bomb” and Biden is “missing in action” as the deadline nears to raise the debt limit, per the AP. “Since the president continues to hide, House Republicans will take action," McCarthy said.

The White House hit back quickly, accusing McCarthy of “dangerous economic hostage taking” and reupping Biden's pressure on the Republican leader to approve a debt ceiling increase with no strings attached. “A speech isn’t a plan, but it did showcase House Republicans’ priorities,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates. He called McCarthy's conditions a “MAGA wish list that will increase costs for hard-working families,” a reference to former President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

McCarthy's Wall Street address came with Washington heading toward a potential fiscal crisis over the need to raise the nation's debt limit, now at $31 trillion, and avert a federal default. The Treasury Department has said it is taking “extraordinary measures” to continue paying its bills, but money will run short this summer. McCarthy faces his own challenges in the House. With his slim majority and less-than-strong grip on power, he has been unable to rally his Republican troops around a budget-cutting proposal that he could offer the White House as a starting point in negotiations. The outline of conditions he proposed Monday is considered dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Still, McCarthy vowed to pass a bill through the House that would raise the nation's debt limit into next year—putting the issue squarely in the 2024 presidential election—coupling it with a plan to roll back federal spending to fiscal 2022 levels and cap future spending at no more than 1% a year over the next decade. Republicans also want to attach policy priorities, including imposing work requirements to recipients of government aid that would result in cuts to benefit programs in the federal safety net for poorer Americans.

(Read more Kevin McCarthy stories.)

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