Biden and the Big 4 look to break debt limit stalemate
Plus: Homeland Security defends itself against criticism on Title 42 messaging and everything you need to know about a bill to solve the Black maternal health crisis.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
All eyes and ears will be on the White House this afternoon when President Joe Biden and the top four congressional leaders meet for the second time since last week.
The hope is that they can make meaningful progress towards an outcome that lifts the debt limit before the US government goes broke and can no longer pay its bills.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday in a letter to the leaders said this so-called “X date” could still be as early as June 1. The estimate is based on available data, federal tax receipts, and revenue projections and could be subject to change as new information comes in.
Reminder: The House and Senate are in session just three more days before the X date, including today. The possibility of leaders canceling the Memorial Day recess will skyrocket if the four leaders walk out of this afternoon’s meeting still at a stalemate.
The meeting follows several days of staff-level discussions on a budget framework for next year that reduces federal investments in domestic programs, protects the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, and can survive fierce opposition from House conservatives while receiving the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday was doom and gloom as he expressed doubts that the meeting would be productive. His position is that the White House and Democrats “want a default” because they’re unwilling at this point to accept trade cuts to the social safety net for an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit to pay for spending that’s already occurred.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats’ position hasn’t changed: They’re willing to discuss spending priorities but not under threat of a default.
“It would be a catastrophe. No one should play with it. No one should flirt with it,” Schumer said on Monday in a floor speech. “No one should hold it hostage and say “unless you do this, we are going default” because the consequences of default are just awful.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell will be there as well and have for the most part deferred to Biden, McCarthy, and Schumer.
President Biden told reporters on Sunday in Delaware that he was optimistic the sides would be able to reach an agreement but on Monday said he didn’t have an update to share on the staff-level talks.
It’s worth noting Vice President Kamala Harris will attend this afternoon’s meeting too. She was noticeably absent from last week’s meeting despite being in DC with no events on her public schedule. A spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment last week on her absence.
Ahead of the meeting, congressional Democrats have entered the chat to pressure the White House and leadership to push back against harsher work requirements, extended budget caps, and energy permitting reform that benefits the fossil fuel industry at the expense of climate justice.
The Congressional Black Caucus is pushing for a clean debt limit that safeguards programs like SNAP, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security since cuts to these programs would harm Black communities and other communities of color the most. CBC members on Monday evening took to the House floor after votes to reiterate their position.
House progressives told Andrew Solender at Axios that they’ll push back against every significant concession not just due to policy disagreements but also because they believe House conservatives will be emboldened to hold the debt limit hostage every time we’re at the brink of default to extract spending cuts they can’t pass through legislation.
President Biden has seemed open to tougher work requirements for SNAP, a federal program that provides people on a low income with cash assistance to buy food, but not for health care programs.
“I voted for tougher aid programs that’s in the law now,” he said on Sunday referring to the welfare reform law former President Bill Clinton signed in 1996. “But for Medicaid, it’s a different story. And so I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is.”
After public backlash, Biden walked back these comments: “The House Republican wish list would put a million older adults at risk of losing their food assistance and going hungry,” he said in a tweet. “Rather than push Americans into poverty, we should reduce the deficit by making sure wealthy and large corporations pay their fair share in taxes.”
Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania said that additional work requirements are punitive.
“I didn’t come here to take food away from hungry kids, and that’s exactly what this proposal would do — a proposal that would make Scrooge blush,” the first-term senator said in a tweet. “I’ve never met a SNAP recipient who aspires to stay on SNAP for life. Let’s end the games, pay our bills, and get on with the important work people sent us here to do.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that the president is still planning to travel to Japan on Wednesday for the G7 Summit as planned.
Kirby was also asked if a scenario exists where Biden would cut his trip short.
”Look, on any presidential trip, doesn’t matter where he goes or when, events back home and around thee world can affect travel. But right now, there’s no plans to curtail the trip or cut it short or to not go,” he said. “We’re planning on going and we’re planning on executing it, and as is the case with any trip, you watch events as appropriate and make the best decisions as you can.”
Biden is also scheduled to travel to Papua New Guinea and Australia during the trip as well.
McCarthy on Monday evening suggested to reporters the president should scrap it though.
”I think an American president should focus on the solutions of America,” he said. “There’s a lot of problems around the world. But we got a really big problem right here. And I think it takes attention to get it done.”
Related reading: “Kevin McCarthy’s idea of austerity: $115 billion for tax cheats and oil companies” by Timothy Noah at TNR … “The media is normalizing debt-ceiling extortion” by Jonathan Chait at Intelligencer
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DHS defends its Title 42 warnings
The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced the agency saw a 50-percent decrease in encounters at the southern border in the first three days after Title 42 expired.
Blas Nuñez-Neto, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at DHS, told reporters it was too early to draw conclusions on if the drop-off will last and said the conditions that are causing migration remain unchanged.
But the initial numbers dispute claims from the department, news outlets, and elected officials that the region would be overwhelmed by migrants attempting to unlawfully enter the country. The warnings led some immigrant rights advocates and Latino reporters to question the motives and practices of the anti-immigrant movement and political class.
“It’s the same way that we talk about poverty and the same way we talk about homelessness and the way we talk about affordable housing: We try to summarize the intricate policy details into something simpler and to make it about fear,” Jed Leano, an immigration lawyer based in California, said in an interview with Supercreator. “And so when we try to encapsulate all of the worst-case scenarios that are possible and we say that this is an inevitable conclusion [that] if you allow people the right to apply for asylum at the southern border, they’ll take your jobs, they’ll drain your services and they’ll be dangerous. And none of that is true.”
Nuñez-Neto disagreed with the characterization that DHS played a role in promoting anti-immigrant sentiment or language.
“What I will say is that whenever there’s a change in policy at the border, we have seen smuggling networks weaponize those changes to spread disinformation and drive migration throughout the hemisphere,” he said. “And we did see in point of fact a significant surge in migration in the days leading up to the lifting of Title 42 and that surge was really within the planning parameters that we have been talking about within DHS and within the government for some time.”
Republican Rep. Chip Roy of Texas disputed DHS’s data during an appearance on Fox Business on Monday and accused President Biden and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of purposely manufacturing a crisis at the border at the expense of Texans.
“They’re ignoring it. They don’t care,” Roy said of the administration’s response to the border. “These are impeachable offenses by the Secretary of Homeland Security and by the President of the United States and the House Judiciary Committee should impeach Mayorkas and we should move immediately to do it.”
A DHS spokesperson said in a statement to Supercreator that Secretary Mayorkas is proud to advance the mission of the department, support its workforce, and serve the American people.
“The department will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border, protect the nation from terrorism, improve our cybersecurity, all while building a safe, orderly, and humane immigration system,” the spokesperson added. “Instead of pointing fingers and pursuing a baseless impeachment, Congress should work with the department and pass legislation to fix our broken immigration system, which has not been updated in over 40 years.”
Related reading: “Immigration policy is uncertain now that Title 42 has been lifted” by Asma Khalid, Franco Ordoñez, and Joel Rose at NPR … “Scenes from the border as Title 42 expires” by NYT
Underwood introduces signature “Momnibus” legislation
Democratic Rep. Lauren Underwood of Illinois on Monday reintroduced the Black Maternal Momnibus Act, a package of 13 bills to address every driver of maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities in the US.
”To save moms’ lives and end the maternal health crisis in our country, we need urgent action,” Underwood said in a statement. “We know what’s needed to end this crisis and the tools to get it done are within reach. The Momnibus is the solution.”
Democratic Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey are also lead sponsors of the legislation.
Maternal mortality in the US is higher than in any high-income nation with Black women three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women in America. And although an estimated 80 percent of these deaths are preventable, the crisis is worsening: Maternal deaths increased by 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, according to recent CDC data.
“It is unacceptable that the United States loses more moms to preventable pregnancy-related deaths than any other high-income country, and this problem has only worsened over the past 30 years. This tragedy disproportionately befalls Black, Indigenous, and rural families,” Leslie Dach, chair of Protect Our Care, said in a statement. “The Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act is essential legislation that addresses the leading causes of poor maternal health outcomes, and it will save lives and help end the maternal health crisis.”
The Momnibus would require Medicaid to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage and extend WIC eligibility in the postpartum and breastfeeding periods while growing and diversifying the perinatal workforce so every mom in America gets maternal health care and support from people they trust.
The legislation would also invest in housing, transportation, nutrition, and other social determinants of health that influence maternal health outcomes and improve data collection processes and quality measures to better understand the causes of the maternal health crisis.
Additionally, it would support moms with maternal mental health conditions and substance use disorders and improve maternal health care and support for incarcerated moms.
Maddie Twomey, a spokesperson for Protect Our Care, told Supercreator that although the Momnibus bill creates a future where everyone has the health care they need, congressional Republicans are actively working to make it harder for mothers and their families to get by — all while protecting tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations like big drug companies.
“Their Default on America Act would impose strict paperwork requirements on Medicaid enrollees, making it harder for caregivers to keep their health coverage,” Twomey said in a statement. “The GOP wants to use the default negotiations as an excuse to hold the economy hostage and achieve their years-long goal of cutting Medicaid and other vital health care programs.”
Related reading:“Our Crisis in Maternal Healthcare Is Uniquely American” by Jeffrey D. Shahidullah at Ms. Magazine … “Maternal deaths in the US spiked in 2021, CDC reports” by Selena Simmons-Duffin and Carmel Wroth at NPR … “How doulas help combat racial disparities in maternal health” by Elise Preston at CBS News
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before meeting with the top four congressional leaders on the debt limit and federal budget. This evening, Biden, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff will speak at a Jewish American Heritage Month celebration. Vice President Harris will attend as well.
Vice President Harris this afternoon will convene a roundtable with young men of color small business owners and entrepreneurs and attend the debt limit meeting. This evening, she will speak at the We Are EMILY Gala. Emhoff will attend as well.
Prior to the Jewish Heritage Month celebration, Dr. Biden will also speak at a Labor Department event to highlight the administration’s investments in American workers and families. She will also speak at the annual DC NewsBash event that supports and raises awareness for breast cancer causes in Washington, DC this evening.
The House is in this morning and will vote this afternoon on a rule to consider a series of law enforcement bills.
The Senate is in this morning and will vote this afternoon to overturn a DC police accountability law.
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