President Joe Biden on Friday vowed that he “will not yield” to GOP demands that he cut entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security in exchange for avoiding a standoff over the debt ceiling.
But he also ruled out taking one of the more extreme measures to avoid such a fight, saying he opposes eliminating the debt limit altogether as a means of averting future confrontations. Such a move, he said, would be “irresponsible.”
Biden’s remarks come after a series of Republican lawmakers said they backed the notion of lifting the debt limit next year as a leverage point to get Democrats to agree to spending cuts. Congress needs to raise the nation’s borrowing cap to protect its credit score and prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debt — a prospect that could throw the world into economic turmoil.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is among the Republicans who have floated using the debt ceiling as leverage if the party wins control of part or all of Congress. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who chairs Senate Republicans' campaign arm, has also advocated a "sunset" of all federal programs, including Medicare and Social Security, that would require they be renewed every five years.
Biden on Friday took a hard line on the issue, warning such a standoff would jeopardize “the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in our history.” He called the idea of putting entitlement programs on the chopping block a non-starter.
“Let me be really clear: I will not yield,” Biden said during his comments. “I will not cut Social Security. I will not cut Medicare, no matter how hard they work at it.”
Biden is no stranger to debt ceiling standoffs, including those that involve negotiations over entitlement reforms. He was at then-President Barack Obama’s side when that White House nearly cut a deal with then House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to lift the debt ceiling in exchange for reforms to Medicare and changes to Social Security payments alongside modest tax increases. The deal ultimately was scuttled.
Nearly a dozen years later, Biden may face a similar set of choices. But he was not willing to concede on Friday that Democrats’ prospects in the midterms were doomed. Instead, he predicted that his party would gather momentum once more in the limited time remaining before Election Day.
Biden sought to cast the upcoming midterms as a choice between starkly different economic visions for the country, arguing that Republicans would try to unravel several of his domestic accomplishments.
“If Republicans get their way, the deficit is going to soar,” he said, accusing the GOP of prioritizing lowering taxes on the wealthy and repealing new limits on prescription drug prices. “The tax burden is going to fall on the middle class.”
The Republican plan, he added, is “mega-MAGA trickle down.”
“The kind of policies that have failed the country before and have failed it again,” Biden said, expressing optimism about Democrats’ midterm chances. “That’s the choice we’re facing. That’s why I think that we’re going to do just fine.”