WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden meets with top Republican leaders in Congress this week to discuss the debt ceiling in an effort to prevent a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt, he also prepares to take the fight directly to some of the grassroots leaders. feature Republican lawmakers whose votes could be crucial.
Biden’s planned campaign-style trip to suburban New York on Wednesday, a day after meeting with congressional leaders, is the latest move in a White House ploy to pressure House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, in the battle over soft-fund spending. the underbelly of his fragile majority: Republican House members in competitive districts Biden won in November.
Biden will travel to the Hudson River Valley district represented by Mike Lawler, a freshman Republican who defeated Democratic incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney in November. Lawler was one of five New York Republicans who managed to flip their seats in the midterms by focusing on inflation and crime, two key issues that hurt Democrats in the polls.
Lawler joined Republicans last month in backing his party’s debt package, the McCarthy bill called the Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt ceiling, curb spending and repeal key pieces of the agenda. from Biden.
“House Republicans who call themselves moderates sided with the most extreme members of MAGA on this ballot, and we are making sure their constituents are aware of the true nature of their priorities,” said the director of White House Communications Ben LaBolt. “It is up to them whether they will continue to side with the MAGA extremists or unite to ensure the country avoids default.”
Democrats have referred to the GOP debt bill, which is dead by reaching the Democratic-led Senate, as the «America Default Act.» Before Biden’s visit, Lawler upheld his vote for the GOP package, which represented the initial offer in negotiations that have yet to gain traction.
“My constituents agree that we can no longer keep spending at these levels. It’s part of the reason I won,» Lawler said in a phone interview Saturday. “I spoke about the need to rein in reckless spending and reverse much of what Joe Biden did.”
Keeping Lawler’s seat will be critical to Republicans’ chances of retaining their slim five-seat majority in the House, and other moderates are under pressure from both sides in the debt-ceiling fight. Democrats see them as potential votes for what is known as a dump petition, an emergency step that would bypass the House Republican leadership to force a vote on a «clean» debt ceiling increase.
Even if a clean debt ceiling increase could be passed in the House, it would face a battle in the Senate, where 43 Republicans signed a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., over the weekend saying they they would not vote for «any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.»
Asked if he could support a two-year increase introduced by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., Lawler said he was «not going to talk about hypotheticals.»
“But in short, where we are now, we have not defaulted. We have time to negotiate,” she said. “If the president and Chuck Schumer are counting on that as a solution, I think they are miscalculating.
“Of course, the goal is to absolutely avoid 100% default,” Lawler said after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last week that the deadline to extend the debt ceiling or face the first default US payment could be June 1st.
Biden said in an interview Friday that he is prepared to negotiate with Republicans «in detail» on a general budget bill, but insisted that the debt ceiling discussion be completely separate and reiterated his call to pass a «clean» increase, without restrictions. . He called McCarthy an «honest man» under pressure from «MAGA Republicans» and noted that it took him 15 votes to secure the presidency in January.
When asked for a response to the president’s planned trip, McCarthy spokesman Mark Bednar told NBC News that Biden «should focus his attention on not defaulting rather than traveling across the country yelling at Americans who know that spending has gotten out of control.”
A new White House analysis of the potential impacts of the GOP debt bill argued that benefits would be cut for tens of thousands of veterans in a sample of 18 congressional districts if the GOP vision became law. , most of them with the same provisional seats.
Lawler accused the White House of «misleading the public» about the Republican Party’s debt package.
“There’s nothing in the bill that specifically reduces anything,” said Lawler, whose district in the lower Hudson River Valley borders one of the largest VA medical centers in the state. “The president spoke often about how he is bipartisan and wanted to work with the Republicans to get deals done. Well, here is an opportunity to work together.»
The VA hospital is in the congressional district represented by Pat Ryan, a Democrat who won a special election last year to represent a hotly contested swing district.
«It’s a safe assumption that he’s cut everything that he didn’t say he was going to protect in the plan,» Ryan said Sunday. “And nothing pisses me off more than when you mess with veterans. All Americans should know that this bill proposed 22% cuts in care for veterans across the country.»
Ryan, a first-term Iraq War veteran, was the only freshman to join Biden on his trip to Ireland last month. He, unlike other vulnerable Democrats, has publicly pledged to back the president for another term.
“We need to act quickly to prevent default. Republicans threatening economic catastrophe while holding health care for our veterans hostage is not the answer,” she said.
White House officials have expressed confidence publicly and privately that the GOP’s brinkmanship will come at a high political cost. But given dire warnings from the administration about the potential economic consequences of even a brief default, there is a significant risk of fallout for Biden’s re-election campaign, which is expected to focus on how his economic agenda has worked for Americans in all income levels.
A ABC News/Washington Post poll published on Sunday found Biden’s approval rating at an all-time low: 36%. Between 54% and 36%, more voters said former President Donald Trump managed the economy better in his four years than Biden did in his first two.
Although the White House has insisted that the debt ceiling be handled separately from a spending discussion, White House officials and congressional Democrats are discussing a short-term debt hike that will it would give both sides more time to negotiate on parallel tracks earlier than usual. October 1 deadline for Congress to pass annual appropriations bills.
Asked if he would be open to a debt limit increase anytime soon, Rep. Patrick McHenry, RNC, a close McCarthy ally, said Sunday that he thinks «everything is on the table right now.»
«The key that has to be in this equation is addressing our fiscal house, short term and long term,» he said on CBS’s «Face the Nation.»