The nation could be thrown into default on June 1 if Congress doesn’t act to raise the debt ceiling, or if President Joe Biden fails to act unilaterally. Despite the tight deadline, despite there being no indication that anyone has put pen to paper to write the legislation that gets us out of this mess, and despite the fact that the most vulnerable people are panicking about how they’ll survive the coming month, Speaker Kevin McCarthy let Republicans leave Washington on Thursday. They’re off officially until June 5 for Memorial Day, which the rest of the nation will celebrate in just one day, on May 29. They were told to be ready to come back on a day’s notice, so there’s that.
Dozens of Democrats stuck around after their colleagues split—88 of them in fact, possibly a House record. They used the “one-minute” portion of the House floor time to remind their colleagues of their obligation to the American people—including the veterans they are supposedly honoring with this long recess—and to the Constitution.
Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries got a standing ovation for his remarks, saying, “We never threatened to default on our debt.” They worked with the Trump administration to avoid default three times, he said, “notwithstanding the fact that in our country’s 247-year history, 25% of the nation’s debt was racked up under the four years of the Trump administration.”
“But yet here we are a few days from America being unable to pay our bills because you made a political calculation that you will be successful in 2024 if you crash the economy,” Jeffries continued. “That’s wrong. That’s cruel. That’s un-American.”
Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi focused on what Republicans are doing to veterans on this holiday. “This weekend this nation will solemnly observe Memorial Day to honor our fallen heroes and their families,” Pelosi said. “Instead of this honoring of our veterans, shamefully the Republicans across the aisle will spend the weekend working to impose suffering on our valiant veterans.” She said that “Republicans have forced Americans down a treacherous path” of either accepting their “extreme proposal, which would eliminate 30 million health visits for our veterans and slash revenues at the Veterans Administration,” or “trigger a catastrophic default, which would force our nation to stiff veterans on the benefits they have earned.”
The leading constitutional scholar in Congress, Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, reminded Republicans that the Constitution says “the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned. We have made a commitment to every Social Security recipient in America, to the Medicare and Medicaid recipients, to the veteran, to the bondholders of the United States, that we would pay their debts as we are fiscally, morally, politically, and constitutionally required to do.” But Donald Trump “issued the order” to default and that’s what the Republicans are doing. “I want to introduce the MAGA Republicans who have split today but who increased the debt ceiling three times under Donald Trump, who gave us a quarter of all the debt of the United States between George Washington and Joe Biden.” Raskin continued, “I want to introduce them to the Constitution of the United States, the validity of the public debt shall not be questioned.”
Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, showed up to share some facts before being silenced by the Republican presiding over the chamber, who literally turned off Beatty’s mic as she was finishing her remarks. “Madam Speaker, fact. Republicans went home,” Beatty said. “Fact, their side of the chamber is empty. Fact, they do not want to negotiate and they are holding our economy hostage to a ransom note of partisan demands. Fact, they are taking Medicaid away from millions, firing teachers, removing children from child care, and ripping food assistance away from our families.”
Illinois Rep. Sean Casten was short and to the point: McCarthy is a hypocrite. “I come to praise the July 2019 version of Speaker McCarthy,” he said. “Where are those brave, principled souls now? The answer, Madam Speaker, as you know, not here.”
New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Republicans who “decided to skip town” after “running up a bill” that they are now refusing to pay. “And not only that, but they are accusing Democrats, saying we spend too much. For anyone that wants to entertain that thought, I ask you to think about the last time a person has said in this country that the government does too much for them. That their Social Security check was too high. That teachers are paid too much.”
That’s a lot of stuff for Republicans to think about while they go to their Memorial Day parades and picnics, and was eloquently about the men and women who have sacrificed everything for this country. Not that they actually will think about it, but it’s not from a lack of trying on the Democrats’ behalf.
We speak with Anderson Clayton, the 25-year-old chair of North Carolina’s Democratic Party. Clayton has a big-picture plan for 2024, and explains the granular changes needed to get out the vote on college campuses and in the rural communities of the Tar Heel State.