How Past Debt Limit Crises Shaped Biden’s No-Negotiation Stance

As the debt limit crisis loomed in 2011, Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. said the initial negotiations with Republicans were civil, and at one point the process was to determine who would own the country’s bicycles. It is suggested that it is to find out what the opponent’s golf clubs are meant to be exchanged for.

That genteel atmosphere ended that summer when House Speaker John A. Boehner withdrew from the deal because he failed to convince Republicans in the caucuses. Months later, congressional leaders agreed to raise the debt ceiling and cut trillions of dollars in federal spending to avoid a default.

According to six current and former advisers, the bitter compromise convinced Biden of two things. Don’t negotiate with a chairman who doesn’t reach a deal — Mr. Boehner’s caucuses were probably less radical than the current House GOP caucus — and turn the process of avoiding a government default into a debate about budgeting. please don’t

“It was kind of a scary transition because you’re going to be negotiating whether you’re going to default suddenly,” Jacob J. Lu, who served as Treasury secretary under President Barack Obama, said in a 2011 uproar. looked back.

Lu added, “It was terrifying, given the real sense that this could easily go wrong.”

Twelve years later, the government is again in danger of defaulting on its debt for the first time, with House Republicans again calling for spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Biden, who came to office and has burning memories of his Obama-era battles, remains firm that discussions on raising the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling should be held separately from spending negotiations. , say the advisers.

This was not always the case. In recent weeks, Republicans have accused Mr. Biden of lashing out at the budget deficit as a senator during the Reagan presidency. In 1984, he proposed a one-year freeze on federal spending. he said his plan It would “shock everyone in the U.S. Senate to the living devil,” but it went nowhere.

And as Vice President, Mr. Biden linked the debt ceiling and budget issues in 2011 when he was negotiating with the Obama administration. Mr. Biden suggested in remarks to reporters on Tuesday that he was only doing so because he was instructed to complete the deal.

“I got a call at 6 a.m. that morning saying that the Republican leader would only speak to me. I ran out of time,” he said. “So I sat down and was directed by the White House to fix the problem. And that was my job. But I didn’t realize it.”

In the spring of 2011, Mr. Biden and a group of bipartisan congressional leaders met frequently to discuss their differences. Early meetings brought groups together at Blair House, where foreign dignitaries stay when visiting Washington. That summer, Mr. Boehner called off negotiations. The main reason is that the general Republican Party does not agree to increase taxes on the wealthy. A complicated deal was struck weeks later, requiring Mr. Obama to explain to Democratic voters why he couldn’t raise taxes and agreed to cut spending by at least $2.4 trillion.

Biden’s aides say the scars remain.

The second debt ceiling struggle since President Obama took office in 2013 has been another test for the divided government. Obama flatly refused to negotiate, and the Republicans, suffering the political toll of plummeting poll numbers and a lower credit rating for the country, eventually retreated.

Biden has since argued that there should be no cap on raising the federal debt ceiling. The federal debt ceiling is the maximum amount the United States can borrow to fund government and meet its financial obligations, including payments. Funding social safety net programs and military salaries.

Biden’s aides point to the obvious fact that relations between Republicans and Democrats have deteriorated over the past decade. Last time a split government threatened to bring debt-limiting talks to the brink, Twitter was still in its infancy and the idea of ​​President Donald J. Trump was just a sideshow.

Now, at a time when the majority of House Republicans want to remain loyal to Trump and to make Biden feel pain as a political principle, there is little compromise on substantive issues such as: not. budget.

“If your demand is to prevent an economic downturn and their demand is everything else, how can you fill the middle ground?” former Obama senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer interviewed said in “My recollection is that everyone believed we would never go down that road again.”

Rather than holding the nation’s debt hostage, Republicans argue they are up against Democrats who have long failed to notice the ballooning interest costs that come with debt.

In a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday, the president underscored the impact of a debt default, according to advisers, and emphasized that leaders must avoid a default at all costs. They were trying to get an agreement. But Biden administration officials acknowledge that even if they all agree that a default should be avoided, it will be the hard part to work backwards from.

“There’s a huge gap between the president’s position and the Republican position,” said Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who warned the U.S. could default as early as June 1. , Said on monday.

Biden asked the group to meet again on Friday and said officials would meet throughout the week. Two advisers said they expected similar meetings to be held regularly. Still, officials on both sides are less optimistic about reaching a painless deal in the short term.

McCarthy said on Tuesday that “no progress was made” in the talks and could consider invoking a 14th Amendment clause that would force the federal government to continue issuing new bonds if the government were to go bankrupt. criticized the president’s proposal that the run out of cash.

“I think it’s kind of a failure to work with people across the aisle or work with your own party to get something done,” McCarthy said.

Biden and minority leader Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky are in regular contact, according to aides, but the president’s advisers are trying to find a way for McConnell to get out of the debt ceiling quagmire. are reluctant to place their expectations on

The president also has an untested Democratic ally in the House Minority Leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who will need the votes needed to make a compromise work. . (Mr. Pfeiffer has said at past debates that Mr. McConnell pounced at the last minute, “when he has the most influence,” reaching an agreement and saying, “Basically, it was enough for him and it passed.” and then pointed out that he would leave town.”)

They probably have little in common when it comes to budgets. Biden wants to increase federal spending and reduce future debt by taxing businesses and high-income earners, and the plan will cut the growing deficit by about $3 trillion over the next decade. claims it can. Republicans want to extend the tax cuts that Trump has approved and expire at the end of 2025.

Mr. McCarthy cut deep into the president’s domestic policy late last month, pushing through appropriations bills to cut discretionary spending, but Republicans have not said what they are cutting or why. Since then, the Biden White House has been happy to fill that void, accusing Republicans of wanting to cut everything from veterans’ health care to Social Security. (Mr. McCarthy called this a “lie.”)

Ahead of the next meeting, the president’s advisers said they did not expect Mr. Biden’s message to change, but suggested that both sides would have to make concessions. Biden’s comments on Tuesday that he might support canceling unspent coronavirus relief funds and meeting Republican demands could be a kind of compromise that keeps talks from petrifying.

But Biden’s aides also expect Biden to underscore his political interests over the next few weeks if Republicans refuse to change the debt ceiling. He will do so not only from the White House, but from congressional districts as well.

On Wednesday, the president was in New York’s Hudson Valley area, where Republican Rep.chicken game

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