WASHINGTON — President Biden bristled when questioned Monday about the high-stakes debt ceiling vote expected later this week — refusing to tell reporters how he might persuade skeptics in his own party while saying the press doesn’t “live in the real world.”
The House is set to vote on the debt-ceiling deal Wednesday, after President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) reached an agreement Saturday night. A 99-page bill outlining the details of the deal was released Sunday, prompting pushback from some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
“I’m not going to tell you,” Biden, 80, snapped at a reporter when asked on the White House lawn Monday what he would say to Democrat skeptics.
“Look, you guys all go on and say, ‘Tell them what a good deal this is’ — how about, ‘this was a 100% deal for Democrats!’ Do you think it’d help me get it passed?” he sneered.
When another reporter asked if the legislation would pass “no question” by June 5, the 80-year-old commander-in-chief also lashed out.
“You realize you’re not in the real world?” he shot back.
“No question? There is no reason why it shouldn’t get done by the 5th, I’m confident that we’ll get a vote in both houses and we will see.”
Biden has refused to freely praise the tentative deal or describe his pitch for Democrats in public, citing a risk of Republicans bailing on the package ahead of the House vote.
“No. That’s why you guys don’t bargain very well,” the president told reporters Monday.
However, when asked by the gaggle of press about who got the better deal — Democrats or Republicans — Biden insisted that it was a “bipartisan deal.”
McCarthy said the House will vote on the legislation Wednesday, giving the Democratic-controlled Senate time to consider it before June 5 — the cut-off provided by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in order to avert a default that would rock the global economy.
The legislation includes new work requirements for 50-54-year-old childless adults receiving food stamps — by applying a rule already in effect for childless 18-49-year-olds — while rearranging $80 billion allocated to new IRS enforcement approved by Democrats last year.
The deal would lower non-defense discretionary spending by 1% to fiscal 2022 levels and then cap annual increases in that spending category to 1%, effectively reducing spending because inflation is higher.
A New York Times analysis said that the deal would result in a $55 billion reduction in government spending next year and a $81 billion reduction in 2025.
The deal was a brutal blow to fiscal hawks who note that federal spending remains near all-time highs due to massive COVID-19 relief packages passed since 2020 and large social spending initiatives approved during Biden’s first two years in office.
Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) tweeted that the deal “locks in spending on bureaucracy at post-COVID level[s].”
“This ‘deal’ is insanity,” exclaimed Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC). “A $4T debt ceiling increase with virtually no cuts is not what we agreed to. Not gonna vote to bankrupt our country. The American people deserve better.”
“I am appalled by the debt ceiling surrender,” added Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.). “The bottom line is that the U.S. will have $35 trillion of debt in January, 2025. That is completely unacceptable.”
McCarthy and his allies argue that the agreement with Biden is an important first step to containing federal spending.
“The systemic reforms we set in place mark the beginning of historic change in Washington,” McCarthy tweeted with a graph of how the package would alter spending over time.
Fiscal hardliners including Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), however, say there will be a fight to stop the deal in the House Rules Committee before it reaches the floor, but it’s unclear if opponents would have the power to actually block it if there’s enough Democratic backing.
Republicans had hoped for a large clawback of unused COVID-19 funds and larger cuts or rollbacks to new programs they opposed — and the brewing rebellion among conservatives means substantial Democratic buy-in will be required.
GOP negotiators initially aimed to return substantial unspent portions of Biden’s $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that passed without Republican support in 2021 and last year’s $437 billion environmental and healthcare spending bill that also passed with only Democrats voting in favor.