43 Senate Republicans Say No to Increasing Debt Limit Without Substantive Spending Cuts

By Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li
Dorothy Li is a reporter for The Epoch Times based in Europe.
May 7, 2023Updated: May 8, 2023

A group of 43 Republicans in the U.S. Senate said on May 6 that they “oppose raising the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms,” coalescing around their House counterparts ahead of the White House meeting over the federal debt ceiling amid a monthslong political standoff.

“The Senate Republican conference is united behind the House Republican conference in support of spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling,” the group of Republicans, led by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), said in a letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-Calif.).

Almost all Republicans in the Senate signed the letter, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“It is now clear that Senate Republicans aren’t going to bail out Biden and Schumer, they have to negotiate,” Lee said in the statement accompanying the letter. “I thank my colleagues for joining my effort to emphasize this point in the clearest possible terms.”

President Joe Biden is scheduled to sit down with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on May 9 to discuss a path forward on the federal debt ceiling. But the White House has signaled that there would be little compromise from the president.

“[Biden] is not going to negotiate on the debt ceiling,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on May 2.

However, the president “is willing to have a separate conversation about their spending, what they want to do with the budget,” she said.

Biden and McCarthy have been locked in a standoff over raising the debt ceiling since January. The president has called on Congress to pass a hike to the government’s borrowing limit without conditions.

McCarthy made it clear that he wouldn’t consider increasing the debt ceiling unless the president agreed to limit future spending.

“No clean debt ceiling is going to pass the House,” McCarthy said on April 26. “We can’t do that to our children.”

House Republicans passed their own solution to the debt crisis on April 26. The bill—the Limit, Save, Grow Act—would lift the federal borrowing cap by $1.5 trillion while enacting sweeping spending cuts, which Democrats have rejected.

Schumer began navigating to advance a clean, two-year extension of the debt limit in the Senate last week. He told reporters that Democrats would decide whether to put the extension up for a vote after the upcoming White House meeting.

Schumer, McConnell, and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) have also been invited to the debt limit meeting at the White House on May 9.

House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy attends a meeting with President Joe Biden (R) and other congressional leaders to discuss legislative priorities through the end of 2022, at the White House on Nov. 29, 2022. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

On May 1, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the government could default on its debt obligations “potentially as early as June 1” without action by Congress to raise the government’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.

In the latest statement, the group of Senate Republicans said Yellen’s letter “reinforced the urgency of addressing the debt ceiling.”

“Our economy is in free fall due to unsustainable fiscal policies. This trajectory must be addressed with fiscal reforms,” they said.

“The House has taken a responsible first step in coming to the table with their proposals. It is imperative that the president now do the same.”

The White House on May 7 accused the Republican senators who signed the letter of “holding millions of American jobs, businesses, and retirement accounts hostage.”

“They need to honor their Constitutional obligation to pay our bills and not unilaterally inflict a recession on the country,” White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement.

There were six Republican senators who didn’t join Lee’s effort—Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and John Kennedy (R-La.).

Schumer’s office didn’t respond by press time to requests by The Epoch Times for comment.