In a move to pressure the GOP House members in competitive districts who narrowly flipped the House majority in the November midterm elections, President Joe Biden plans to travel to New York‘s Hudson River Valley on Wednesday – one day after meeting with congressional leaders to discuss the debt ceiling.
Biden‘s visit to the district of freshman Republican Mike Lawler – who defeated Democratic incumbent Sean Patrick Maloney in November – comes as the White House strategy shifts to put pressure on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R–Calif.
The strategy is to push House Republicans in moderate districts to vote for a discharge petition – an emergency step that would bypass House GOP leadership to force a vote on a “clean” debt ceiling increase before the looming June 1 deadline.
“House Republicans that brand themselves as moderate lined up with the most extreme MAGA members on this vote, and we are making sure their constituents are aware of the true nature of their priorities,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt said. “It’s up to them whether they will continue to side with MAGA extremists or come together to ensure that the country avoids default.”
Democrats have referred to the GOP debt bill – the McCarthy–backed Limit, Save, Grow Act – as the “Default on America Act.” Lawler stood by his vote for the package, which he said was the opening bid in negotiations that have yet to gain steam.
“My constituents agree that we cannot continue to sustain spending at these levels. It’s part of the reason that I won,” Lawler said in a phone interview Saturday. “I talked about the need to rein in reckless spending and to reverse much of what Joe Biden did.”
When asked whether he could support a two–year increase put forward by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D–N.Y., Lawler said he was “not going to talk about hypotheticals.”
“But the bottom line where we are right now, we have not defaulted. We have time to negotiate,” he said. “If the president and Chuck Schumer are counting on that as the solution, I think they are miscalculating.”
However, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D–N.Y., is facing pushback from Republicans, who penned a letter to him over the weekend saying they won’t vote for “any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.”
McCarthy spokesperson Mark Bednar responded to Biden’s planned trip, saying that the President “should focus his attention on not bumbling into default rather than traveling around the country to shout at Americans who know that spending has gotten out of control.”
A new White House analysis of the GOP debt bill’s potential impacts argued that benefits would be cut for tens of thousands of veterans across a sampling of 18 congressional districts if the GOP vision became law.
The battle over the debt ceiling has become increasingly tense as the deadline nears. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last week that the deadline to extend the debt ceiling or face the first U.S. default could be as early as June 1.
Biden expressed confidence that the GOP’s brinkmanship will come at a severe political cost and that a “clean” debt ceiling increase will pass. But an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday showed his approval rating at an all–time low: 36%.
As the White House insists the debt ceiling should be handled separately from a discussion over spending, White House officials and congressional Democrats are discussing moving a short–term debt increase that would give both sides more time to negotiate on parallel tracks before the usual Oct. 1 deadline for Congress to pass annual appropriations bills.
Rep. Patrick McHenry, R–N.C., a close ally of McCarthy, said Sunday he believes “everything’s on the table at this point.”
“The key thing that has to be in this equation is addressing our fiscal house, short–term and long–term,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
As the Biden administration and Republican lawmakers remain at odds over the debt ceiling, the President is taking his fight directly to the GOP rank–and–file in an effort to avoid a catastrophic default on the nation’s debt.