House Democrats Vow Unified Support for Debt Limit Deal Ahead of Vote

House Democrats Vow Unified Support for Debt Limit Deal Ahead of Vote
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) answers questions during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 12, 2023. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Samantha Flom

As House Republicans remain divided on the debt limit deal struck by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden, their Democrat colleagues have opted for a united front in support of the measure.

“House Democrats are going to make sure that the country does not default, period, full stop,” House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said at the Democrats’ weekly press conference. “We will continue to be responsible stewards of our economy, and we will not let middle-class Americans, working families, those who aspire to be part of the middle class, seniors, veterans, the poor, the sick, and the afflicted be hurt by a dangerous, GOP-manufactured default.”

The bipartisan bill, dubbed the “Fiscal Responsibility Act,” suspends the debt limit until January 2025, sidestepping the looming threat of default by allowing the Treasury Department to continue paying the U.S. bills.

The deal has drawn backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike, with both groups decrying the concessions involved.

But despite the concerns of some Democratic colleagues, Jeffries told reporters on May 31 that his conference was “not fractured at all.”
“We are unified in avoiding a default, we are unified as it relates to why the country is in this situation, and we’re unified behind the leadership that President Biden has provided,” he said.

‘Victims of Extortion’

Jeffries was joined at the news conference by House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), and Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), all of whom asserted that Republicans were to blame for bringing the nation to the brink of default.

Challenging Republicans’ protestations over the nation’s climbing deficit, Aguilar contended: “This was never about deficits to Republicans. They turned down every reasonable opportunity to close loopholes that would affect our deficits. They want to stand behind their billionaire friends so they can pay less than teachers on their tax rate.”

Clark, meanwhile, accused Republicans of holding the American people hostage by demanding spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit.

“There is no perfect negotiation when you are the victims of extortion,” Clark noted. “Nobody likes to pay a ransom note, and that’s exactly what tonight’s vote is—our payment on the ransom of the American people.”

After passing the House Rules Committee on May 30, the bill is expected to come to a full House vote on May 31. But with many Republicans vocally denouncing the measure, it remains unclear whether McCarthy will be able to swing enough votes for the measure to pass.

“The fact that we still don’t know if the votes are there, that he is depending on Democrats to avert disaster, that is a reflection of the extremism, of the brinksmanship and the ideological rot that has taken hold of the Republican Party,” Clark said.

Noting that her party had “always been clear” on their position regarding default, the congresswoman said, “The question is whether Republicans today will decide to join us and do the right thing.”

‘Crocodile Tears’

Despite garnering support from the more moderate faction of the Republican conference, the deal has been heavily criticized by the staunchly conservative Freedom Caucus for providing Biden with a “blank check” for the rest of his term.
“Tomorrow’s bill hands Biden a blank check, as it doesn’t actually set a debt limit,” Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) noted at a May 30 Freedom Caucus press conference. “This is an unlimited debt increase, allowing him to spend as much money as he wants through the end of his term.”

Other critics have held that McCarthy did not fight hard enough at the negotiating table for spending reforms.

“Joe Biden has run our country into a ditch with his policies and if we want to turn things around, Republicans should be demanding significantly more spending reforms than we’re getting in this deal,” Rep. Michael Cloud (R-Texas) said in a tweet.

As for some Democrats’ claims of dissatisfaction with the deal, Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) contended that the White House appeared “very cheery” in its messaging over the bill.

“It’s funny … that the White House is telling Democrats, ‘Have crocodile tears, but vote for the bill,’” he said at the Freedom Caucus’ news conference. “It’s funny that you have 100 Democrats who are now greenlighting that they will vote for this bill. You know why they’re going to do that? Because none of their policy is changed and they get to keep all of their spending.”

Offering a word of advice to his fellow Republicans, Donalds advised: “Do not vote for this bill. I’m telling you right now, your voters back home are going to look at you and say, ‘Why did you vote for a bill that keeps all of Joe Biden’s policy in place and all you did was raise the debt ceiling?’”

Samantha Flom is a reporter for The Epoch Times covering U.S. politics and news. A graduate of Syracuse University, she has a background in journalism and nonprofit communications. Contact her at [email protected].
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