Debt Ceiling Negotiations: 316 to Zero

Thanks to Speaker McCarthy’s strategic leadership in the House and Sen. McConnell’s support, the Congressional Republicans are entering the negotiations with President Biden in a remarkably strong position.

by Newt Gingrich

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s announcement that the United States government could run out of money by early June starts the next phase of the debt ceiling dance.

The score at this point is House Republicans 316 to President Joe Biden and Senator Chuck Schumer zero.

The 316 is the number of pages in the Limit, Save, and Grow Act which House Republicans passed by 217-215 on April 26. That act cuts $4.8 trillion in spending and raises the debt ceiling so there will be no risk of default.

The zero is the number of pages in bills proposed by President Biden and Senate Democrat leader Schumer. Since there is no Democrat bill to stop the United States from going into default, there has not been a vote in the Senate on a Schumer-Biden proposal.

In fact, as a sign that Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s strategy is beginning to pay off, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said “If you look at the House, what they accomplished was a surprise to everyone given the various factions. Their having achieved an outcome — it should be clear to the administration that the Senate is not a relevant player this time.”

As Punchbowl News reported:

“‘I think McConnell’s analysis is right,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a frequent McConnell critic. ‘I don’t always agree with him. But on this, I think his analysis is right.’ Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) replied:

‘”[The House] got something done. Let’s let them sell it to the president and then let them work out a deal. There’s nothing we can do other than talk about it, brag about it or complain about it. I’m like Leader McConnell — let’s just stay out of it and let them do it. We should have no say because we had no skin in the game.’

“’Whatever Kevin McCarthy comes to with the president, that’s great. We’ll be there to support the speaker,’ Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said. ‘[McCarthy] can take a real strong lead here. We don’t want serious fractures happening in the House.’”

This is an unprecedented level of Senate Republican support for a House initiative. It is a further sign of the goodwill and team spirit Speaker McCarthy has developed with the Senate Republicans in general and Leader McConnell in particular.

Faced with a united Republican team President Biden reached out to Speaker McCarthy by phone while the Speaker was leading a bipartisan congressional delegation to Israel and suggested they meet on the debt ceiling.

We will learn from that meeting if President Biden is beginning to confront reality.

Biden’s demand for an unamended debt ceiling increase which would allow spending, borrowing and taxing to continue unchanged had been soundly rejected by the American people. As the Winston Group reported in a “Winning the Issues” brief, only 14 percent of voters favor a debt ceiling with no spending cuts. Even among Democrats only 21 percent favor the Biden position, while among independents that support drops to an eye-opening 13 percent. That’s a  pretty narrow base on which to build a re-election campaign.

Thanks to Speaker McCarthy’s strategic leadership in the House (which spent months developing a debt ceiling spending cut bill which the House Republican Conference could pass despite their narrow majority) and to Sen. McConnell’s generous decision to support his colleague’s success, the Congressional Republicans are entering the negotiations with President Biden in a remarkably strong position.

The Biden unreformed debt ceiling increase is supported by 14 percent according to the Winston Group. That means 86 percent of the American people want a different solution than President Biden. Sen. Schumer cannot get anything through the Senate as long as the Senate Republicans remain firmly in support of their House colleagues.

If Republicans can build a disciplined message that they have already passed the bill to avoid a default, the business community will begin building pressure on President Biden to move to Speaker McCarthy’s position.

The next few weeks are going to be fascinating.

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