The nation is one day closer to a default on its debt, an event so potentially catastrophic that only a sociopath could root for it. President Joe Biden is set to meet with congressional leaders again Friday, while White House and congressional staff keep meeting to try to move the process along toward a negotiated settlement.
The White House continues to insist it isn’t negotiating on default—Biden won’t exchange preserving the full faith and credit of the U.S. for anything—but these are negotiations and there’s every expectation from Republicans that they’re going to get something in return. It’s the scope of that something that’s the big question, and whether anything Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy could agree on would pass muster with the House Freedom Caucus members who are pretty much in control.
Following his meeting with congressional leaders Tuesday, Biden told reporters that one area of agreement might be in clawing back some unspent COVID-19 relief funds. He said he’d “take a hard look at it” and “it’s on the table.” McCarthy is also pushing for “reforms” in the permitting process for energy production, namely making it a lot easier for oil and gas companies to drill everything. He’s got an ally in Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who has been pushing the proposal since last year. The White House is demanding that the energy proposal be delinked from the negotiations, but Manchin would happily play spoiler of any clean debt limit bill over the issue.
In public, Biden remains steadfastly opposed to making concessions. Republicans are “literally, not figuratively, holding the economy hostage by threatening to default on our nation’s debt,” Biden told a crowd in New York Wednesday. “We’re bringing jobs back all across America. This is no time to put all this at risk, to threaten a recession, to put at risk millions of jobs, to undermine America’s standing in the world,” Biden said.
He also pointed out that those hostage-takers, the “MAGA Republicans,” as he calls them, control McCarthy. “They’ve taken control. They have a Speaker who has his job because he yielded it to the, quote, ‘MAGA’ element of the party.” That’s the part of this equation that has advisers still seriously examining Biden’s constitutional authority to go it alone and bypass Congress in suspending the debt limit.
Biden name-checked one of his advisers, Lawrence Tribe, when he made news Tuesday for saying he was seriously considering the argument that the debt limit statute is unconstitutional. “I have been considering the 14th Amendment,” Biden said. “And a man I have enormous respect for, Larry Tribe, who advised me for a long time, thinks that it would be legitimate.” The big caveat Biden had, however, was that he wasn’t looking at it for this crisis, but the next inevitable one. He wants the issue to be litigated in the courts first.
Tribe, a constitutional law scholar who teaches at Harvard Law School, wants to know: Why wait? “I don’t think there is any litigation to fear,” he told reporters, and said he “hopes” Biden understands that the threat he seems to fear—a challenge from House Republicans—isn’t an issue. The House can’t sue the president for not violating the Constitution and for paying the bills for programs that Congress has authorized.
“I don’t know how they or how anyone could find somebody with standing to sue the president and the secretary of the Treasury for spending the money that Congress has said they’re supposed to spend,” Tribe said. “What would a court tell them not to spend the money on?” He’s got a point. Even this Supreme Court, Tribe said, wouldn’t take this case.
The leading constitutional scholar in Congress, Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, essentially agrees. He’s also an emeritus constitutional law professor at American University. He told Politico that there is “virtually no precedent under the validity of the public debt provision,” but “the MAGA Republicans are putting McCarthy in a position, who is now putting Biden in a position where he’s going to be forced to choose between either violating the Constitution and violating the laws of the country which require him to pay the bondholders and pay the Social Security recipients, or he’s going to have to violate the debt limit statute.”
Those MAGA Republicans are perfectly willing to default. Donald Trump, the aforementioned sociopath, just told them to do it during his CNN town hall Wednesday. That makes the constitutional card not just a good option for saving the economy, but a necessary one.
The data is in: Americans don’t like Republican policies on abortion. Kerry is joined by Drew Linzer, the director and co-founder of the well-regarded polling company Civiqs. Drew and Kerry do a deep dive into the polling around abortion and reproductive rights and the big problems conservative candidates face in the coming elections.
As talks stall, Biden hints at end-around on debt ceiling
Biden puts the screws to McCarthy on default
Two-faced McCarthy on full display in debt ceiling showdown
Biden: 'We pay our bills ... without reckless hostage-taking'