More of the same on the debt limit front
Ahead of the high-stakes meeting next between President Biden and the top four congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans remain entrenched in their untenable positions.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Congress returns to Washington next week with just a few workdays to raise the debt ceiling before the US runs out of cash to pay its bills.
Since Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen announced the June 1 deadline for lawmakers to take action, President Joe Biden has remained resolute in his position that House Republicans must increase the nation’s borrowing limit ahead of any negotiations about future federal spending priorities.
Biden, who is scheduled to meet with the top four congressional leaders next Tuesday, is assuming this posture in large part because most congressional Democrats support his strategy — aside from a few marginal voices who represent districts or states that former President Donald Trump won in 2020 and benefit from bucking the current administration.
This is most notable among the left-leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus and more centrist New Democrat Coalition, who partnered on a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy calling for a clean debt limit increase and have maintained their solidarity since.
Strength in numbers
CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal told Supercreator last week in an interview on the House steps that her members see it
“But also, we know that a lot of the issues that we fight for as progressives are populist issues and they have appeal regardless of the ideology. Progressives are often the ones pushing and strategizing and organizing, but I think it’s important to try and bring that in wherever possible because it also increases our power,” she said. “If we can say it’s just progressives, it’s much more effective to say this is across the Democratic spectrum.”
In a statement to Supercreator, New Democrat Coalition Chair Annie Kuster said that the need to prevent a default on our debt and ultimately avoid economic catastrophe is so urgent it required unity from the two groups and with President Biden.
“Secretary Yellen’s announcement this week shows inaction is simply not an option,” Kuster added. “That’s why the New Democrat Coalition is pushing for immediate action to avoid default in the short-term and willing to work with responsible Republicans to advance smart policies that address our fiscal health and grow our economy in the long term.”
Senate Dems call out the far right
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate Democrats have hammered Speaker McCarthy for what they view as his enabling of the most conservative members of his conference to hold on to power even if it’s at the expense of the American people.
During a Senate Budget Committee hearing on Thursday, Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse said that attempting to extract partisan policy concessions, with threats to intentionally drive the American economy off a cliff, is the definition of extremism.
“Democrats haven’t threatened to default unless Congress also passes gun control legislation or climate legislation, even though those are desperately needed policies with broad public support,” Whitehouse said in his opening remarks. “Why not? Because crashing the global economy if we don’t get what we want isn’t policymaking — it’s hostage taking, it’s extremism.
Other Senate Budget Democrats used the hearing to reiterate warnings of the impact the House GOP bill would have on veterans, farmers, law enforcement, older adults, kids from low-income families, and the transition to a clean energy economy if it passed.
It’s also worth noting that Dr. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, estimated the so-called “X date” to raise the debt limit is June 8 — a week later than Yellen’s assessment. June 1, Zandi said, is the worst-case scenario, while an August 8 deadline would be the best-case. All of this will be based on if tax receipts to the Treasury pick up or remain lukewarm in the coming weeks.
“The math is just the math”
Shalanda Young, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, on Thursday attempted to make the debate plain for worried Americans.
“Look, for most Americans outside of this town, which is who we’re all here to work for, the conversation around budgets and default are sometimes made to — by a lot of leaders here — to sound more complicated than they are,” she told reporters. “It’s pretty simple: Last week, we saw House Republicans pass a partisan bill that essentially says we’re going to put our entire economy at risk unless the president agrees to our entire agenda to gut programs hardworking families depend on. Does it sound extreme? It’s because it is.”
Young also pushed back against Republicans who say their bill won’t weaken the social safety net despite promising not to cut Social Security, Medicare, veterans benefits, or military spending.
“If House Republicans ultimately walk away from some of these deeply unpopular cuts, then their cuts to everything else get worse,” she said. “The math is just the math.”
Dems aren’t the only ones united
The math also says the votes currently aren’t there in either the House or Senate to pass a clean increase to the debt limit because congressional Republicans have circled the wagons around Speaker McCarthy as they look to send him to the White House next week feeling empowered to stand up to the president.
The conference dynamics are compelling: House conservatives are buoyed to hold the line by the fact they forced additional concessions out of House leadership to pass their bill despite skeptics from within their own party. So-called moderates were forced to take a tough vote on a bill that won’t be passed into law and imperils their reelection next year to avoid the far right’s wrath this year. And Senate Republicans want no part of the negotiation because they support the House’s proposed domestic disinvestments and any deal they cut would undermine Speaker McCarthy.
“There is no solution in the Senate,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday.
But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from speaking into the void anyway.
“The solution here is staring Republicans in the face: Do what we have already done under President Trump and President Biden, under both Democratic and Republican majorities,”
Schumer said. “We should pass a clean bill to avoid default with no brinkmanship, no hostage taking. If we do that, there will be no default on the national debt.”
See also: “This is how Biden gets Kevin McCarthy to wilt like a hothouse flower” (Timothy Noah / TNR)
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IMMIGRATION BAND-AID: Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina introduced a bill that would authorize the Biden administration to continue for two years to expel migrants who attempt to enter the country without inspection or proper documentation to their country of last transit or country of origin.
“Despite our repeated calls, the Biden Administration failed to plan ahead and implement a realistic, workable plan,” Sinema said in a statement. “Our legislation gives them more time to put a plan in place that will secure our border, protect Arizona communities on the frontlines of this crisis, and ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely.”
The legislation resembles Title 42, a public health measure that empowered border patrol to reject asylum seekers without hearings during the pandemic to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Title 42, which was used during the Trump administration and expanded by the Biden White House, is set to expire on May 11. Tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers are expected to travel to the border once the order is lifted.
House Republicans are expected to vote on a border security plan next week that would reinstate some of former President Donald Trump’s most controversial anti-immigration policies.
RELATED: Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona sent four letters to White House officials and Congress requesting specific resources border town mayors and county officials say they need to reduce the burden that lifting Title 42 will have on them and their residents.
TRONE LAUNCHES SENATE BID: Democratic Rep. David Trone of Maryland officially announced his bid to succeed longtime Sen. Ben Cardin in the US Senate.
Trone, who is reportedly willing to spend millions from his personal fortune during what’s expected to be a competitive primary, mentioned addressing the opioid epidemic, mental health crisis, and broken justice system as policy priorities if he were elected.
RELATED: Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico announced he will seek reelection to a third term.
CASH HAUL: The Senate campaign for Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas announced it raised $2 million in the 36 hours after the third-term congressman launched his challenge to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
“Texans cannot afford six more years of Ted Cruz in the Senate and we are amazed at the outpouring of support for Colin Allred’s campaign to represent all Texans,” Campaign Manager Paige Hutchinson said. “Our campaign will always be about bringing people together, and we are confident we are going to have the resources to win.”
According to the campaign, the contributions from more than 34,500 donors were more than the $1.26 million that Cruz raised in the first three months of the year and eclipsed the previous record of $1.6 million for the first day of Senate campaign fundraising this cycle. Allred is expected to need every penny that he raises to unseat Cruz in one of the Democrats’ few Senate pickup opportunities in 2024.
CUT IT OUT: Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said he and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell received a letter from seven former Defense secretaries who served under presidents of both parties on the impact caused by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama’s blanket hold on military promotions in protest of a Defense Department abortion policy.
The former secretaries acknowledged Tuberville’s concerns about the Pentagon authorizing employees who travel for abortion care to request time off and reimbursement for expenses.
“However, we believe placing a hold on all uniformed nominees risks turning military officers into political pawns, holding them responsible for a policy decision made by their civilian leaders.”
Schumer on Thursday placed the onus on Senate Republicans to convince Tuberville to drop the holds in a floor speech.
“I urge all my Republican colleagues to impress upon Senator Tuberville the damage he is causing to our military, our people who have served for decades, and to our own national security at a time where we can’t afford to drag our heels on national defense,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “All of us in the Senate have strong opinions on various topics, but that cannot justify putting our national preparedness at risk.”
RARE SOLIDARITY: Speaker McCarthy and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries set aside partisanship in a joint statement demanding Russia release journalist Evan Gershkovich and former Marine Paul Whelan from prison.
“The persecution of Gershkovich is part of a disturbing practice by Putin’s Russia of kidnapping American citizens and using Soviet-style show trials to unjustly imprison them,” the leaders said. “Russia must release Gershkovich and Whelan now.”
Both men are being wrongfully detained on false accusations of spying. Whelan was arrested in 2018 while Gershkovich has been imprisoned since March.
See also: “The US is ‘intensely engaged’ in efforts to free Evan Gershkovich, Blinken says” (Edward Wong and Daniel Victor / NYT) … “US Ambassador to Moscow visits imprisoned American Paul Whelan” (AFP via The Moscow Times)
DIFI UPDATE: Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Thursday pushed back against calls to resign from progressive activists and lawmakers who say her absence in the Senate Judiciary Committee has stalled the chamber’s ability to confirm Biden nominees while she recovers from shingles.
“The Senate continues to swiftly confirm highly qualified individuals to the federal judiciary, including seven more judicial nominees who were confirmed this week,” Feinstein said in a statement. “There has been no slowdown.”
The 89-year-old also called out Senate Judiciary Republicans for holding a handful of nominees in committee, which has been evenly split during her absence.
“I’m confident that when I return to the Senate, we will be able to move the remaining qualified nominees out of committee quickly and to the Senate floor for a vote,” she said.
Politico photographer Francis Chung on Tuesday captured Chuck Schumer’s talking points that said the top Senate Democrat was “hopeful” Feinstein would return to the Senate next week. But Feinstein’s office revealed soon after that she hasn’t been cleared for travel yet.
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President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing before convening his Investing in America cabinet to discuss the economy. Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is in the United Kingdom for the coronation of King Charles. This afternoon, she will arrive at No. 10 Downing Street and greet Akshata Murty, the wife of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before the two have a meeting. Dr. Biden and Murthy will then meet with veterans and their families participating in a health and wellness program. Biden will also meet with embassy staff and families at the US Embassy in London before attending a reception hosted by the king at Buckingham Palace.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff this morning will host the third-ever Vesak celebration where he will speak and participate in the traditional candle-lighting ceremony. Vesak commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha.
The House and Senate are out.
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