Debt ceiling: Biden says Republican negotiators ‘have to move’ amid stalled talks


Hiroshima, Japan
CNN
 — 

President Joe Biden on Sunday again called on congressional Republicans to move toward a deal to raise the US borrowing limit and characterizing GOP proposals he derided as “extreme,” as he prepared to return to Washington with the possibility of an unprecedented financial default looming as soon as next month.

“Much of what they’ve already proposed is simply, quite frankly, unacceptable,” Biden said at a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where he’s been attending the Group of 7 summit. “It’s time for Republicans to accept that there’s no bipartisan deal to be made solely, solely on their partisan terms. … They have to move, as well.”

In a sign of obstacles facing negotiators, Biden said that he can’t guarantee that Republicans will not force the US to default, which could roil global markets and be catastrophic for the US economy.

“I can’t guarantee that they wouldn’t force a default by doing something outrageous,” Biden said of Republican negotiators.

Pressed on whether he would be to blame for a default scenario, he said that based on what he’s offered, he should be blameless, but conceded that “no one will be blameless” as he suggested some of his political rivals could be encouraging a default to sabotage his reelection efforts.

“I think there are some MAGA Republicans in the House who know the damage it would do to the economy, and because I am president, and a president is responsible for everything, Biden would take the blame and that’s the one way to make sure Biden’s not reelected,” he said.

Republicans have been seeking spending cuts in the federal budget in exchange for their support to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. On Sunday, Biden acknowledged “significant” disagreement with Republicans in some areas, insisting that while he’s willing to cut spending, tax “revenue is not off the table” as part of the deal.

“Part of what I’ve been arguing from the beginning is the need to consider the tax structure as well as, as well as, cutting spending,” Biden said. “I’m willing to cut spending and I proposed cuts in spending of over a trillion dollars. But, I believe we have to also look at the tax revenues.”

The US President has asked to speak with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy once his meetings conclude in Japan, in hopes of helping to putting negotiations – which have appeared mostly stalled since Friday – back on track.

“My guess is he’s going to want to deal directly with me in making sure that we’re all on the same page,” Biden at his news conference said of his planned phone call with McCarthy.

Biden also addressed the possibility of using the 14th Amendment to continue US government borrowing in the absence of a deal, as he suggested he has the authority but ultimately made clear that debt ceiling action is up to lawmakers.

“I’m looking at the 14th Amendment. … I think we have the authority. The question is, could it be done and invoked in time that it could not – would not be appealed?” Biden asked, calling the question of whether an appeal could be solved before the default deadline “unresolved.”

Pressed by CNN’s Phil Mattingly to clarify whether he thought he could invoke the 14th Amendment as a serious and tangible option, the president made clear that maneuver would not be successful given the short window remaining.

“We have not come up with unilateral action that could succeed in a matter of two weeks or three weeks. That’s the issue. So it’s up to lawmakers. But my hope and intention is to resolve this problem,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned the US could default on its debts as soon as June 1.

On Saturday afternoon, McCarthy said negotiators wouldn’t be able to resume talks with the administration until Biden was back in Washington.

“Unfortunately, the White House moved backwards,” the California Republican said. “I don’t think we’re going to be able to move forward until the President can get back.”

Biden has been traveling overseas to attend the Group of 7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, since leaving Washington on Wednesday. Biden is slated to fly back to DC on Sunday, a shortened version of his trip that originally had stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea before Biden cut the final legs amid debt ceiling talks.

President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, Sunday, following the G7 Summit.

Biden asked his team to coordinate with the speaker to arrange the conversation on Sunday morning Eastern Time, which would be the two men’s first conversation since debt talks appeared to stall amid disputes over spending limits.

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson of South Dakota confirmed on Saturday that the White House made an offer this morning seeking to cap future spending at current levels, which Johnson called “unreasonable.”

Johnson, a McCarthy ally and chair of the centrist Main Street Caucus, is one of several key players who has been getting briefed by Republican negotiators on the talks.

“Negotiations did not go well today,” Johnson said. “The paper that the White House provided was a major step backward. And it undermined all the progress that was made Wednesday and Thursday. … It has endangered negotiations.”

Johnson warned, “We are at real risk of default.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.


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