February 26, 2024

White House Caves: Joe Biden Asks Kevin McCarthy to Negotiate Debt Limit

White House Caves: Biden Asks McCarthy to Negotiate Debt Limit

President Joe Biden finally requested House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to negotiate the debt limit on May 9 to avoid default.

President Joe Biden on Monday finally requested that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) negotiate the debt limit during a meeting to be held on May 9 to avoid default, a move that contradicted the White House’s previous official position.

While traveling in Israel, McCarthy received a call from Biden to schedule a meeting to negotiate raising the debt limit after days of stonewalling tactics, Punchbowl News reported.

“We are not negotiating on this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. “We’ve been very clear on this.”

On Wednesday, McCarthy and House Republicans passed a bill to raise the debt limit. Reports indicated the Biden administration was taken by surprise when McCarthy successfully passed the bill. McCarthy’s unpredicted victory apparently left the Biden administration flat-footed.

“It’s not a plan,” Jean-Pierre said Monday about the House’s bill. “It’s a recipe for economic disaster.”

“They [House Republicans] need to do their job. Congress must act,” she said. “It is their constitutional duty.”

The White House’s stonewalling position remained consistent through Monday afternoon. About one hour after the White House press briefing, Biden called McCarthy.

As Biden and McCarthy prepare to negotiate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA) has announced hearings on the House bill as a public relations attempt to condemn it. Schumer has refused to enact his own legislation or hold a vote on the House’s bill.

Biden last Wednesday talking tough:

The Recount on Twitter: “President Biden mocks House GOP divisions before reiterating he will not negotiate on whether to raise the debt ceiling:”They haven’t figured out the debt limit yet … I will meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That’s not negotiable.” pic.twitter.com/W07tiJg4KN / Twitter”

President Biden mocks House GOP divisions before reiterating he will not negotiate on whether to raise the debt ceiling:”They haven’t figured out the debt limit yet … I will meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended. That’s not negotiable.” pic.twitter.com/W07tiJg4KN

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US May Risk Debt Default ‘As Early As June 1’: Yellen

McCarthy accused Biden of “threatening to bumble our nation into its first ever default.”

US May Risk Debt Default ‘As Early As June 1’: Yellen

The United States could run out of money to pay its financial obligations — risking a catastrophic default — as early as the start of June, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday, as policymakers tussle over raising the debt ceiling.

The United States could run out of money to pay its financial obligations — risking a catastrophic default — as early as the start of June, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday, as policymakers tussle over raising the debt ceiling.

Last week, the Republican-led House of Representatives voted to lift the national borrowing limit, but only with drastic cuts as they sought a showdown with President Joe Biden, a Democrat, over what they see as excessive spending.

Republicans were determined to muscle the Limit, Save, Grow Act through the lower chamber of Congress to strengthen their position in negotiations with Biden, who has refused to agree to spending cuts. But the act has no chance of becoming law as it is opposed by Democrats controlling the Senate and White House.

The impasse has raised the possibility of Congress and White House overseeing the first national debt default.

“Our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government’s obligations by early June, and potentially as early as June 1, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time,” said Yellen on Monday, in a letter addressed to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other leaders.

While the United States hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit in January, the Treasury has taken extraordinary measures that allow it to continue financing the government’s activities.

But if the debt ceiling is not raised or suspended before current tools are exhausted, the government risks defaulting on payment obligations, with profound implications for the economy.

“Given the current projections, it is imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments,” Yellen said.

The White House said late Monday that Biden called McCarthy that afternoon to invite him to a meeting on May 9 with the other chief Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress.

A source familiar with negotiations told AFP that Biden spoke Monday with McCarthy on extending the national debt and avoiding a default.

As head of the narrow Republican majority in the House, McCarthy has primary control over US budget issues.

In a statement late Monday, McCarthy appeared unbowed, accusing Biden of “threatening to bumble our nation into its first ever default.” He called on the president and the Senate “to get to work — and soon” to accept spending cuts and avert the crisis.

In an earlier letter, Yellen said it was unlikely that cash and extraordinary measures would run out before early June.

She added Monday that the latest expectations are based on current available data and noted that the actual date when Treasury exhausts its measures could be “a number of weeks later” from the early June estimate.

“Because tax receipts through April have been less than the Congressional Budget Office anticipated in February, we now estimate that there is a significantly greater risk that the Treasury will run out of funds in early June,” said CBO director Phillip Swagel in a separate statement on Monday.

In an earlier report, the CBO projected that extraordinary measures would likely be exhausted between July and September, although it also acknowledged uncertainty in its expectations.

“House Republicans are running out of time to avert an economic catastrophe of their own making,” said Brendan Boyle, top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.

“Today’s update from the Treasury Department needs to be a wakeup call for Speaker McCarthy,” he added, saying that the Speaker has “wasted enough of the House’s time” appeasing his extreme allies.

But House Republicans, in a tweet after the Treasury’s announcement, doubled down on the need to “limit Washington spending.”

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Feinstein has vowed to return to Washington, but what happens if she doesn’t?

Feinstein has vowed to return to Washington, but what happens if she doesn’t?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has not participated in nearly 60 votes over the past two months, leading some liberals to urge the California senator to step down before her planned retirement.

WASHINGTON — The race to replace retiring Sen. Dianne Feinstein is well underway, but as California’s senior senator has missed nearly 60 votes over the past two months, some liberal Democrats are calling for her to resign.

Feinstein, who is recovering from shingles, said she plans to serve out her term and has received the support of party leadership. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer said this week that he hoped she would return soon. Feinstein released a statement saying she plans to return to Washington when her doctors say it is safe for her to travel.

With a narrowly divided Senate, questions have arisen about the options for Democrats if Feinstein does not return to the U.S. Capitol but does not resign.

The 89-year-old, the oldest member of the Senate, has been facing questions in recent years about her cognitive abilities and fitness for the post. Her supporters argue that these questions are ageist and sexist, pointing to male senators who served into their twilight without such criticism.

But the dynamic changed once Feinstein announced March 2 that she was hospitalized with shingles, a viral infection related to chicken pox that is painful but not life-threatening. At the time, she said she hoped to return to the Senate by the end of March.

Her continued absence is critical for two reasons: Democrats have narrow control of the Senate, 51-49, and Feinstein sits on the powerful Judiciary Committee. With her absence, the panel is divided 10-10 between Democrats and Republicans, stymieing the Biden administration’s judicial appointments.

The committee last voted on a nominee in mid-February, and its chairman told CNN that he can’t put Biden appointees forward because of the tied membership.

This conundrum prompted Feinstein to ask Schumer to temporarily replace her on the committee with another Democrat until she returns to the Capitol — a move that was blocked by Senate Republicans.

Can the Senate remove an incapacitated senator from office?

There’s nothing in lawspecifically for this situation.

In the past, when senators have been absent for extended periods due to illness, the Senate has proceeded as normal with a vacant seat. Prior examples include the late Sen. Karl Mundt of South Dakota, who suffered a stroke in 1969 and was absent from the Senate for three years without resigning, and President Biden, who during his Senate tenure was absent for seven months in the 1980s after he underwent two surgeries for brain aneurysms.

The Senate can, in theory, take action to remove a sitting senator for certain reasons. But the upper chamber has never done so because a senator was sick or incapacitated.

“Unless a senator chooses to resign, the only way to remove them from office is by a two-thirds expulsion vote,” said Molly Reynolds, senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, a bipartisan Washington think tank, in response to emailed questions.

Is removing a Senator for other reasons a realistic option?

It has happened in rare occasions, and not for more than a century and a half.

In its 234-year history, the Senate has expelled 15 members: one for treason and 14 because of their support for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

Since the last expulsion, in 1862, there have been 13 failed attempts to remove senators on myriad grounds, from corruption to election fraud to being a Mormon (Utah’s Reed Smoot in 1907). These senators either survived the expulsion vote or resigned.

Under the U.S. Constitution, senators cannot be recalled from office by voters in their state, according to the California secretary of State.

How is a Senate vacancy filled?

Each state has its own rules on how to replace a senator before the regular election cycle.

Under California law, a senate vacancy may be filled via an appointment by the governor that does not require confirmation by the California Legislature or the U.S. Senate. The governor also may call for a special election to fill the vacancy.

If there is a vacancy, California voters at the next general election would select a senator to serve the remainder of the six-year term of the person who vacated the office.

In January 2021, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to fill the Senate vacancy created when Kamala Harris was sworn in as vice president. In November 2022, the ballot had two senate elections: one about who should serve the remainder of Harris’ term in the Senate, which would have ended in January 2023, and one about who should serve the subsequent six-year term. Padilla easily won both.

Given the thin partisan divide in the Senate, it’s likely that Newsom would move quickly to appoint a fellow Democrat to fill any vacancy to ensure his party remains in control of the upper chamber.

If a Senator resigns, dies or is expelled from office, does the replacement automatically fill the Senator’s committee assignments?

No.

There is no guarantee the replacement will fill their predecessor’s committee seats.

“Once there is a new senator sworn into the vacant seat, he or she only gets committee assignments after the Senate adopts a simple resolution,” Reynolds said.

Opponents can in theory hold up that process with a filibuster — continuous, often unnecessary debate on the floor to cause a prolonged delay to a vote. It would take 60 votes to end a filibuster.

For Feinstein, who serves on the Judiciary Committee, that question is particularly important.

Even if she left office, Republicans could prevent her successor — or any Democratic replacement — from filling her seat on the Judiciary Committee, under current Senate rules. That said, taking such a step would be unprecedented and highly provocative.

Democrats could pass a rule change to ensure that Republicans cannot block new senators from committees by requiring a simple majority instead of 60 votes, said Jim Manley, who spent 21 years in the Senate working for Democrats including the late Harry Reid, the former Senate Majority Leader from Nevada.

But Manley noted that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), the leading GOP senator on the Judiciary Committee, said in a recent CNN interview that Republicans would follow precedent if Feinstein resigns.

What conundrum does Newsom face if Feinstein retires early?

In 2021, Newsom pledged to appoint a Black woman to replace Feinstein if she retired early.

This promise came after his decision to appoint Padilla to replace Harris when she was sworn in as vice president. Harris’ departure meant there was not a single Black woman in the Senate.

This pledge has created a dilemma for the two-term governor.

There are three top candidates vying for Feinstein’s seat: Democratic Reps. Adam B. Schiff of Burbank, Katie Porter of Irvine and Barbara Lee of Oakland. Newsom has declined to weigh in on the race; a senior aide told The Times, “There are three extremely qualified candidates in the race that have displayed the courage it takes to fight for California values in Washington, D.C.”

Lee, who is Black, is beloved by liberal Democrats as the sole member of Congress to vote against giving President George W. Bush authorization to use military force after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. When Newsom pledged to name a Black woman to Feinstein’s seat if she resigned before her term was over, Lee was one of the likely choices. However, with an active Senate race underway, such an appointment would be viewed as the governor putting a thumb on the scale in the 2024 election and could irk the others in the race who are popular with Democratic voters across the nation.

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