WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday that “extreme MAGA Republicans” are holding the US economy “hostage” in the debt ceiling standoff and are threatening to spend on the environment in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling. of the nation

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Biden lamented «a time when some of the nation’s most dedicated conservationists were on the other side» as the two sides trade barbs in the fight over federal spending.

Now House Republicans are using the threat of a default to carve up the administration’s environmental budget and more, the president charged. Biden has said the responsibility for raising the nation’s debt limit rests with Congress and that House Republicans led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy are trying to use the threat of default as leverage to force concessions.

“He wants to cut 22% of everything that is not defense spending,” Biden said, warning that “thousands of wildland firefighters would go unpaid,” park rangers “will face losing their jobs” and layoffs looming for workers who regulate water quality.

“It would mean cutting resources to monitor pollution, allowing polluters to get away with exposing vulnerable communities to dirty air and water,” Biden added. «We cannot allow that to happen.»

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 11, 2023.Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Rose Garden comments came the same day that Biden and congressional leaders postponed a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss the debt ceiling after tense talks on Tuesday. Biden has said he will accept just one debt bill to raise the borrowing limit with no strings attached, while Republicans push to negotiate a federal budget that includes sweeping cuts.

Aides met Wednesday and Thursday to seek areas of agreement after the leaders met at the White House earlier in the week, a meeting McCarthy described to Republican members as a waste of time.

The leaders are expected to meet again before Biden’s trip to Asia next week. The Treasury Department notified lawmakers that the government could default on the nation’s $31.4 trillion in debt by June 1, a near horizon for negotiators.

If he fails to clear the log jam by the end of the month, it could roil financial markets and prove politically damaging for Biden, shaking public confidence in his leadership as he heads into his re-election campaign.

Biden, who announced his 2024 candidacy two weeks ago, faces broader political pressure over his climate agenda, a centerpiece of his 2020 presidential campaign. The president has angered environmental activists, including over his decision to endorse Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska.

Biden said Thursday that his administration had protected 9 million acres of land in Alaska and would ban new drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The president said he directed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to designate 770,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as protected.