President Biden on Friday commended Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for his role in reaching an agreement on the debt ceiling, highlighting a rare moment of bipartisanship between the White House and the GOP-controlled House.
“I want to commend Speaker McCarthy. You know, he and I and our teams, we were able to get along and get things done,” Biden said in prime time remarks from the Oval Office. “We were straightforward with one another, completely honest with one another, respectful of one another. Both sides operated in good faith, both sides kept their word.”
The president said he will sign the debt ceiling deal into law on Saturday. The White House has not released details about the bill signing and if McCarthy would be invited to it.
Biden also commended Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), as well as Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), for acting “responsibly” and said the votes in both chambers were “far more bipartisan than anyone thought was possible.”
“It was critical to reach an agreement and it’s very good news for the American people,” Biden said. “No one got everything they wanted but the American people got what they needed. We averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse.”
The bill passed the House on Wednesday with 149 Republicans —over two-thirds of the GOP conference — backing the bill, which was a major win for McCarthy.
The bill was voted through Congress this week after the prospects of the president and speaker reaching a deal three months ago looked dim. Since the agreement was reached over Memorial Day Weekend, Biden and McCarthy have been publicly complimenting each other, as well as their top negotiators: Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young.
“When I ran for president, I was told the days of bipartisanship were over and that Democrats and Republicans can no longer work together,” Biden said on Friday. “But, I refused to believe that because America can never give into that way of thinking.”
The president called back to his State of the Union address in February, mentioning that some Republicans jeered from the audience and yelled that it wasn’t true that they wanted to cut Social Security and Medicare. He recalled that he told Republicans to commit to not push for cuts to the welfare programs.
“With the bright lights and cameras on, those few Republicans that were protesting, they agreed. They said they wouldn’t cut it,” he said. “That’s how we protected Social Security and Medicare from the beginning and from it being cut, period.”
The deal — which lifts the debt ceiling for two years — was met on Thursday evening when the Senate advanced the bill with a bipartisan majority, just days away from a possible default. Biden on Friday called the budget agreement “vital” and stressed the significance of meeting the deadline to avoid a historic default.
“That’s why I’m speaking to you tonight. To report on a crisis averted and what we are doing to protect America’s future,” he said. “Passing this budget agreement was critical. The stakes could not have been higher.”
The president added that “nothing would have been more irresponsible” than a default, adding that retirement accounts would have been decimated and Americans would have lost their jobs.
Biden has faced some backlash over the deal from progressive Democrats after he had to bow to Republicans on demands like lower domestic discretionary spending and new work requirements for food stamps.
And, McCarthy was criticized by far-right conservatives in his caucus who thought the final bill didn’t cut spending enough, suspended the debt ceiling for too long, and excluded provisions they pushed for like repealing of green energy tax credits and an end to Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.
Source: The Hill