Biden, McCarthy contend with the politics of debt-limit dealmaking
As the two leaders look to reach an agreement, they’re also looking to set expectations for members who may be disappointed by the final compromise. Plus: Lisa Blunt Rochester is up next in Delaware.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
There’s still no deal between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt limit and funding priorities for next year’s budget. But both leaders are fully aware of the internal politics they’ll have to navigate within if an agreement is reached.
“We have to be in the position where we can sell it to our constituencies,” Biden said on Monday before a meeting with McCarthy in the Oval Office. “We are pretty well-divided in the House, almost down the middle. And it’s not any different in the Senate. So we got to get something we can sell to both sides.”
McCarthy, who’s under intense pressure from House conservatives to demand concessions that will never pass the Senate or be signed into law, attempted to set expectations for his members given they’re unlikely to get all that they want.
“We know we’ve got to get something through the Senate. We got to get the president to sign it,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, you’re gonna have to have compromises.”
Spending still the pain point: The speaker has insisted on spending less money this fiscal year than the last.
But because he wants to increase military funding and protect Medicare, Social Security, and veterans’ health care — without raising new taxes — the only meaningful line items to disinvest are in the social programs Democrats prioritize.
The White House and congressional Democrats have proposed closing existing tax loopholes and freezing funding at 2023 levels.
“That’s an inherently reasonable position that many in our party might even be uncomfortable with,” House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters Monday evening. “But President Biden understands we’re in a divided government situation.”
House Republicans want to return to fiscal year 2022 levels with a one-percent increase for the next decade, as opposed to the two-year cap Democrats are willing to accept.
There’s also persistent disagreement about stricter work requirements for food assistance and Medicaid, which Democrats are united against because they make it harder for people to get the help they need and cost too much to enforce.
McCarthy on Monday said that work requirements “takes people off poverty rolls and puts them into jobs.” But most people who rely on these programs are already working.
Where there seems to be consensus: Both sides agree that the energy permitting process needs to be reformed so this will likely be included in a final deal.
Environmental justice activists are closely watching to make sure any compromise doesn’t weaken the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, which included the largest investment to fight the climate crisis in US history.
There’s also agreement on both sides to rescind unspent COVID-19 money.
How we got here: McCarthy claims we’re only in this crisis because President Biden refused to meet with him for nearly 100 days after their first meeting in February.
At the time, Biden told McCarthy that he would be releasing his budget proposal soon and would invite the speaker back to resume discussions once House Republicans introduced a plan of their own.
It’s true that McCarthy requested several meetings with Biden. But the president declined to accept them because he felt he would be negotiating against himself since the House GOP hadn’t passed a proposal of their own.
Five days after House Republicans passed their bill along party lines, Biden invited McCarthy and the three congressional leaders to the White House to pick up the talks.
McCarthy’s version of the 97-day meeting gap is deeply frustrating to the White House, according to a source close to the administration.
Time is legit running out: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sent congressional leaders a follow-up to her letter from last week estimating the high likelihood that the government would be unable to pay its bills if Congress doesn’t raise the debt limit by June 1.
Yellen warned that we’re already in the danger zone because Treasury’s borrowing costs have substantially increased for the bills due in early June.
If an agreement is reached, staff would still have to draft legislative text. And McCarthy again said yesterday that he would maintain the rule he agreed to during his speakership fight that requires lawmakers to have 72 hours to review a bill before a floor vote.
“I know in past Congresses under [former] Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi was different. They would move trillions of dollars in a day and nobody could read the bill,” McCarthy said on Monday after his meeting at the White House. “I’m not going to be afraid of what the agreement comes in in the end, because I would sit that bill down and I would give everybody 72 hours so everybody knows what they're voting on.”
McCarthy broke this rule last month before House Republicans voted on their proposal to cut domestic funding and raise the debt limit.
For more: “What it would mean for the global economy if the US defaults on its debt” by Paul Wiseman at AP
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Blunt Rochester becomes instant frontrunner to succeed Carper
There are currently no Black women in the Senate following the election of Vice President Kamala Harris. But Lisa Blunt Rochester has a chance to change that dynamic if she runs to succeed Democratic Rep. Tom Carper of Delaware, who on Monday announced he would retire at the end of his term next year.
“That’s a home run in every possible aspect. She’s one of the most-liked members of Congress,” Democratic strategist Michael Hardaway said to Supercreator of the four-term congresswoman. “She’s incredibly brilliant and she knows Delaware. She knows the legislative process and so she is best positioned to help lead that state after Mr. Carper’s retirement.”
Blunt Rochester, the first woman and first Black person to represent Delaware in Congress, was straightforward about her likely candidacy.
“It’s probably no secret to anyone that I have said should the seat become open that I’m interested,” she told reporters. “And I’m still interested.”
But she declined to set a timeline for her decision, which will come after a process of thinking, praying, and planning.
Top Dems clear the field: Blunt Rochester will have the backing of the party’s VIPs, including Carper himself whom she used to intern for in the late ‘80s.
“You’ve been patient, waiting for me to get out of the way. And I hope you run and I hope you’ll let me support you,” Carper said he told Blunt Rochester before he announced his retirement. “And she said, ‘Yes,
I’ll let you support me.”
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also called Blunt Rochester to lend her some encouragement.
“He told her he believes she could be a really good senator and be looks forward to sitting down with her soon,” Schumer’s spokesperson said.
Then there’s Joe Biden, who represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years before serving as former President Barack Obama’s vice president and returns to the state most weekends even as president.
“She also has a great relationship with the president and I’m assuming that he’ll be helpful to her in that regard, as well,” Hardaway said. “And so in every particular capacity, it’s important: You also have this historical perspective of being a Black woman and being a senator, which is incredibly powerful.”
Carper’s legacy: Carper will retire as the last Vietnam veteran to serve in the Senate.
The 76-year-old told reporters that his focus through the rest of his term will be implementing the Inflation Reduction Act climate provisions in his role as chair of the Environment and Public Works Committee.
“Beyond his innumerable accomplishments in office, Tom has empowered and inspired generations of young Delawareans to enter public service and run for office,” President Biden said in a statement. “He has served as a role model, a mentor, and a trusted advisor to countless public servants throughout the state.”
In his statement, Schumer said so many important pieces of legislation wouldn’t have happened without Carper’s diligence and persistence.
“No one has put more miles in than Tom Carper,” Blunt Rochester said in a statement. “No one has worked harder for Delaware than Tom Carper.”
2024 state of play: Carper becomes the fourth Senate Democrat to announce they won’t run for re-election, joining Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Ben Cardin of Maryland.
Although California, Maryland, and Delaware are all safe blue seats, Senate Democrats face a tough map next year that has them on defense in states that former President Donald Trump won in 2020 — including Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia.
Jon Tester and Sherrod Brown have already announced their reelection campaigns in the first two states.
Joe Manchin, seen as the only Democrat who can win in West Virginia, said he won’t announce his future plans until the end of the year — in fact, on numerous occasions, he’s declined to rule out a primary challenge to President Biden.
The three independent senators who caucus with Democrats — Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are also undecided incumbents.
Name to watch: As for who could fill Delaware’s lone Senate seat if Blunt Rochester runs for Senate, keep your eyes on Sarah McBride, who in 2020 became the first openly transgender state senator in US history, and would become the first openly trans member of Congress, is “quite likely” to run, an adviser told Zach Cohen of Bloomberg Government.
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All times Eastern
President Biden will have lunch with Vice President Harris at 12:15 p.m. before receiving his daily intelligence briefing with Harris at 1 p.m.
The House is in at 10 a.m. with first votes expected at 1:30 p.m. and last votes expected at 4 p.m.
The Senate is out.
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