McCarthy says Republicans will pass their own debt cap bill if Biden doesn’t talk

WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that House Republicans are ready to pass their own debt ceiling President Joe Biden’s bill will not agree to a negotiation with him on raising the nation’s borrowing limit.

He said the Republican conference is “very close” to agreement on the issue — “and if the President doesn’t act, we will.”

McCarthy said a home debt ceiling would reflect the contours of his letter to Biden this week, who proposed extending a borrowing limit with provisions to cut and limit discretionary spending, reclaim unspent Covid aid and establish new labor requirements for federal benefits and energy and border laws.

McCarthy’s comments mark a significant twist stalemate above the debt limit. It’s the first time he’s said the GOP-led House can act alone to avert a default, in response to Biden’s statement that paying the country’s bills is non-negotiable and that he has no policy concessions to Republicans will do for it.

McCarthy has insisted on negotiations, avoiding saying the House would act without Biden’s approval. He has a slim majority and would have trouble passing a debt-limit bill with only Republican votes. Such a bill would then be sent to the Democrat-controlled Senate and would require Biden’s signature to become law.

“We were sensible, responsible and asked to sit down with the President for months. He makes the decision that he wants to jeopardize the economy. I don’t know what else I can do,” McCarthy said. “I would take lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if he wants that. It does not matter.”

Does McCarthy have the votes?

Some lawmakers question whether Republicans can stand alone in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., chair of the rules committee, said Republicans “absolutely” need some Democratic votes to get a debt-limit bill through the tightly divided chamber.

“We need some spending restraints,” he said. “And the Democrats — the only place they seem to want to cut spending is on defense. And the only place we want to spend is on defense and of course veterans. So two sides have to get together again and make a deal.”

In response to McCarthy’s letter this week, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “welcomes a separate discussion” on fiscal policy, but one that doesn’t involve paying the bills that Congress has legislated on the country .

“It’s time Republicans stopped playing games, adopted a clean debt ceiling and stopped threatening our economic recovery,” she said.

Democratic leaders support Biden’s position, saying Congress should pass a “clean” debt-limit bill with no strings attached and negotiate spending policy separately via a government funding bill.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said there is nothing Democrats can negotiate with until Republicans come up with a plan and prove they have the votes in the House of Representatives to pass it.

“He doesn’t mention anything specific. So if you were to sit down, you would have to be wondering what Speaker McCarthy and the President are going to be talking about — the weather?” Schumer told reporters this week. “We have a plan. We want to exceed the debt ceiling, without hostage taking, without brinksmanship, just like we did under Presidents Trump and Biden. They still don’t have a plan.”

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., said if Democrats wanted a clean debt limit increase, they should have passed it last year while they were in control of Congress.

“Joe Biden could have had his clean debt ceiling six months ago. He has decided not to do that. So now, FAFO,” Donalds said Thursday, using an initialism for the phrase “fly around and find out.” “Now he has to deal with House Republicans. And we will work, we will make sure we reform and cut unnecessary spending to get our country back on track.”

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