Is it Biden’s default? Or the Republican default on America?
Even as negotiators proceed with tentative talks to resolve the deadlock over the federal debt ceiling, members of both sides are positioning themselves to try to dodge blame for the economic fallout if things go badly. Democrats slam Republicans for taking the debt ceiling hostage to appease « extremely MAGA » conservatives bent on cutting government spending. Republicans bashed Democrats for waiting too long to open talks and failing to take the GOP’s demands seriously.
But deep down — and in some cases not so deeply — officials in both parties know they’ll all pay if they don’t get a deal, the government defaults, and Americans lose money and jobs and confidence in their financial well-being and future.
“I would hate to be the politician who tries to explain to people when the economy is in the bathroom that it’s not my fault, it’s their fault,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. “Yeah, that’s not going to work. They’ll tear us all apart. »
Polls have suggested that Mr. Graham’s view is correct. A Washington Post-ABC news poll released earlier this month shows the public is divided over who will bear the blame, with a significant portion of independents saying both sides should share it equally.
And some on Capitol Hill say the political backlash will be well deserved if Congress and the White House can manipulate the situation so badly that public officials plunge into an entirely avoidable crisis and send both the economy and retirement accounts into a tailspin. millions of Americans.
« I fail to see that anyone who had the ability to prevent so much damage to our country, our economy and our world standing would have allowed this to happen, » said Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, who was been among those pushing his party to engage in talks sooner. “That would be absolutely reprehensible. Everyone should be hammered.
But those probable reverberations have not yet motivated negotiators to reach an agreement and pave the way for a sigh of economic relief. Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, the point man for House Republicans in the talks, abruptly walked out of a Friday negotiating session with administration representatives on Capitol Hill, accusing them of being « unreasonable » and the talks temporarily stalled. suspended. Suddenly, the path to a quick deal that spokesman Kevin McCarthy saw on Thursday was once again cluttered with obstacles. Talks resumed in the evening.
Such ups and downs in budget negotiations are pretty standard and can be both performant and substantial. Both sides need to flex to show their respective forces that they are holding on and pushing for everything they can get. But there are real differences in the positions of Democrats and Republicans on a number of issues on the negotiating table. A successful outcome is not a certainty, despite regular high-level assurances that the US cannot and will not default in the coming days.
However, if that were to happen, lawmakers and administration officials would like you to know that they haven’t.
“Here we are on the brink of a Biden default,” West Virginia Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said this week both in person and via a press release, playing a refrain that is becoming increasingly popular among Republicans — that this was all Mr. Biden doing because he refused to engage with them sooner and allow enough time to work out a deal.
Not so, counter the Democrats. « We find ourselves in the midst of a GOP-produced default crisis because House Republicans have chosen to try and hold our economy, our small businesses, ordinary Americans hostage to unreasonable ransom demands, » said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, New York Democrat and minority leader, said.
The Republicans have a reply. They argue that since they passed legislation in the House last month that would raise the debt limit and decree spending cuts, they have bragging rights and immunity from criticism because they are the only ones who have acted so far – although it was it is widely known that the bill could never pass a Democratic-majority Senate.
« I don’t know how we could own it if we lifted the debt limit, » McCarthy told the White House when asked if he was ready to face the consequences of a default. His colleagues share his point of view.
« In my district I don’t think it would be a big deal, » said Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma. “I voted to raise the debt ceiling. Show me one person on the other side who did it.
Furthermore, Republicans know that it is traditionally the president who gets credit or blame for the state of the economy even if the circumstances are well beyond the control of the executive branch.
Democrats scoff at Republican claims. Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and Majority Leader, has dubbed the House legislation the Default on America Act, to try to capture both its impact and his dead status upon arrival in the Senate. He and his fellow Democrats say they refuse to reward Republicans for what they see as highly irresponsible actions that are putting the nation’s economy at risk, even though both sides have used the debt ceiling to negotiate leverage over the years. .
“From the beginning, Democrats have said — I said — this process requires bipartisanship,” Schumer said this week. “This is how we avoided default under President Trump. This is how we avoided default under President Biden, and this is how we should avoid default this time too. Brinkmanship, hidden agendas, hostage-taking – none of this will bring us any closer to a solution.
The two sides can continue to exchange blows. But until they exchange negotiating positions they can come to terms with, the threat of default hangs over Washington and the nation. And if that happens, those involved may find that the public won’t distinguish between who did or said what and when, but will hold them all accountable.