The Democrats' insistence that they will not negotiate over raising the debt limit is starting to pay off, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy declared he'd bring President Biden "soft food" if the 80-year-old would agree to negotiate.
Speaking to reporters shortly before McCarthy took his apparent jab at Biden's age, Schumer said Republicans are starting to crack.
"Our campaign really to get a clean debt ceiling is gaining steam," Schumer said. "The plan that we came up with, that I came up with when I met with President Biden and Hakeem Jeffries -- 'show us your plan' -- is working in the very sense that Republicans have not been able to come up with a plan. And they're busy fighting with each other."
In normal years -- which have been less and less common -- both chambers of Congress set to work on spending plans soon after the president proposes a budget. And if things go the way they are supposed to, each chamber then passes 12 appropriations bills. Then those all go to conference committees to work out differences and come up with results that can pass on both sides of the Hill.
The debt limit is a separate issue. It's a law that sets the maximum amount that the Treasury Department can borrow to pay for the spending or tax cuts that Congress has already authorized. It leaves America in the odd situation of having a Congress that can spend whatever it wants, but then prevent the Treasury from borrowing enough money to pay the bills. The country has already reached the current $31 trillion debt limit, and will not be able to pay its bills at some point late in the summer or in early fall.
Republicans in the House have decided this year, as they did in 2011, to say they will not agree to raise the nation's debt limit unless the White House agrees to large, unspecified cuts in future spending. As Schumer noted, he, the White House and Democratic House Leader Hakeem Jeffries decided that while they will negotiate on spending and taxing, they will not negotiate over the debt limit. They also don't think the White House should negotiate at all until Republicans propose a spending plan with the cuts they want, as Biden has proposed his budget.
"They don't have a plan," Schumer said. "And the way to do this is how we've traditionally done it -- which is you do the debt ceiling, clean without hostage-taking, without brinksmanship, and then you debate the budget as we always have."
As Schumer pointed out, there has been some conflicting messaging coming from House Republicans recently. They may give up on even trying to pass a budget blueprint, let alone in time for the April 15 statutory deadline. There has also been talk among Republicans of doing a short-term extension of the debt limit to make sure bills can get paid through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30.
Yet House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not extend an olive branch to the White House Thursday, offering the dig on "soft food," and renewing his demand that Biden start negotiating the debt limit now.
“He is making the decision that he wants to put the economy in jeopardy," McCarthy told reporters. "I don’t know what more I can do, and how easy — I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet."