Democratic Pressure Mounts on Biden as He Works to Strike Debt Ceiling Deal With McCarthy


President Joe Biden has come under pressure as Democrats in Congress are dissatisfied with how the debt ceiling talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have progressed and may vote against a deal that they believe compromises too much.

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) issued a warning on May 25 to Biden and McCarthy that members of his caucus wouldn’t automatically accept any debt-ceiling compromise made between the two if it violates the party’s core principles.

When asked if Republican leaders were wrong to assume that House Democrats would support a Republican bill backed by Biden, Jeffries responded, “Yes.”

During the news conference on May 25, Jeffries also criticized Republicans for their “unacceptable” demands and expressed confidence that Biden will maintain his position.

“It’s clear to me that President Biden is continuing to hold the line as it relates to the types of devastating cuts that Republicans are trying to jam down the throats of the American people,” he said.

“We’re not going to take a deal that hurts working people,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said during a press conference on May 25. “We’ve been very clear about that.”

Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), a House progressive, asked Biden to halt debt limit talks with House Republicans, labeling them “economic terrorists.”

“I’m very frustrated,” he told CNN. “I mean, we don’t negotiate with terrorists globally, why are we going to negotiate with the economic terrorists here that are the Republican Party?”

Bowman added that he’s “very concerned” that Biden will cave to Republican demands for spending cuts.

On May 19, dozens of House progressives sent a letter (pdf) to Biden, warning him that they “cannot support a harmful agreement” to raise the debt ceiling, instead urging him to invoke the 14th Amendment.

Some have suggested that the president can invoke the 14th Amendment, which allows him to act unilaterally to ensure that the country doesn’t default, if Congress doesn’t act. However, the president has frequently stated that the alternative isn’t practical because it doesn’t address the problem in the short term.

“You have been a strong and clear leader for our country over the past two years and we have accomplished many important things for our people and our country,” the letter, signed by 66 Democratic lawmakers, said.

“We, the undersigned, cannot support a harmful agreement that undermines our shared achievements, and we would choose a solution invoking the 14th Amendment of the Constitution over a bad deal. We urge you to stay strong in your resolve to keep Democrats united behind our core democratic values and to refuse to reward Republicans’ reckless refusal to raise the debt ceiling without preconditions.”

Biden provided an update on the budget talks on May 25 during a Rose Garden event at the White House to announce the nomination of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Speaker McCarthy and I have had several productive conversations,” Biden said, adding that the negotiators of both sides are continuing to meet and make progress.

“I put forward a proposal that will cut spending by more than $1 trillion and freezes spending for the next two years,” he said.

Biden added that the best way to move forward is with a bipartisan agreement, which he believes will be reached soon.

When asked about growing Democratic Party concerns that the president is caving in too much to Republicans, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that neither side will receive all of what they want during the negotiations.

“We are negotiating with Republicans in good faith,” she said. “At the end of the day, everyone understands that the only way to move forward here is with a bipartisan, reasonable agreement on the budget that can win support from both sides—from both Democrats and Republicans in the House and in the Senate. So, there’s no alternative to this.

“When these negotiations happen, both sides have to understand that neither side is going to get everything that they want. And so that’s what we’re working toward.”