Debt ceiling fight sets tone of Schumer relationship with McCarthy
Relations between the leaders of the House and Senate appear increasingly chilly as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) throws barbs at the House GOP over the brewing debt ceiling fight.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is set to meet with President Joe Biden to discuss the country’s borrowing limit on Wednesday. The White House is insisting on a clean debt ceiling hike, while House Republicans say spending cuts are a must.
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As both sides brace for a stalemate that could last for months — lawmakers have until June or so before the Treasury Department can no longer stave off default using “extraordinary measures” — Schumer is using the House Republicans’ plan to roll spending back to fiscal 2022 levels as a political cudgel.
During a floor speech last week, he called on Republicans to outline the spending they’re considering cutting.
“If Republicans really want to starve the American people of vital services, the American people have a right to know what that will mean for their daily lives,” he said.
He accused House Republicans of resorting to “brinkmanship and hostage-taking” and demanding “draconian spending cuts that would impact just about every American, again, in a very bad way.” McCarthy says popular programs such as Medicare and Social Security are off the table in debt ceiling talks.
“I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending,” the speaker said on Face the Nation Sunday. “We haven’t been in this [much] debt since World War II, so we can’t continue down this path.”
Schumer’s debt ceiling tactics follow his pledge to fight “ultra MAGA” Republicans “tooth and nail” — while ostensibly keeping the door open to bipartisan compromise.
“I want to work with Speaker McCarthy to get things done, but so far, House Republicans have been focused on delivering for wealthy special interests and the extreme wing of their party,” Schumer wrote in a “Dear Colleague” letter sent days after McCarthy was elected speaker.
Schumer has taken aim at a GOP proposal to abolish most forms of taxation but institute a 30% national sales tax, calling it “truly foul stuff” in a floor speech last week. GOP lawmakers have distanced themselves from the Fair Tax Act proposal, and it likely does not have the support to pass the House or the Senate.
McCarthy, for his part, has taken shots at the Democratic-controlled Senate, mocking the weekslong recess senators took after being sworn in.
“I don’t know — is the Senate even in this week? What did they do this week?” he asked rhetorically during a press conference earlier this month.
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Though the debt standoff is in its early stages, Schumer is nonetheless projecting confidence that the Democrats will prevail.
“Unfortunately, [McCarthy] let a group of very extreme people” wield power, the New York Democrat said to Politico.
“The plan is to get our Republican colleagues in the House to understand they’re flirting with disaster and hurting the American people. And to let the American people understand that as well. And I think we’ll win,” the senator said.
The debt ceiling is just one fight House Republicans will wage after taking back the House majority in the November midterm elections. Washington is already bracing for an impasse over the fiscal 2024 budget that could grind the government to a shutdown at the end of September.