Some pundits now argue that President Joe Biden made mistakes on the debt ceiling talks. Is that true?: The Biden White House is in the exact position it didn’t want to be in, having to negotiate concessions with Republicans in Congress or face default. What could they have done differently? Biden – according to some – ‘messed up’ the talks.
Joe Biden ‘Messed Up’ on Debt Ceiling Talks?
The White House and Congressional Republicans are currently in negotiations, in which the debt ceiling must be raised in order to avoid a default.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, in a repeat of the events of the Obama Administration, is hoping to force concessions from the Democrats, including possible repeals of legislation from earlier in the Biden presidency.
The president and speaker are scheduled to meet Monday for initial talks, with a reported deadline of the end of the month to avoid the first default in the nation’s history. On Friday, Republicans walked away from talks.
It appears that the White House’s strategy, which first entailed not talking at all and asking Congress to pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase, hasn’t worked.
However, they would have eventually had to negotiate the budget with the House-controlled GOP.
Vox pointed that out in an analysis this week. The Democrats thought they could point out that the Republican position was extreme and win the battle of public opinion, but that strategy clearly did not work.
That strategy also counted on Republicans not remaining united and failing to pass a spending bill through the House, but McCarthy did indeed pass such a bill earlier this spring.
“In my view liberals’ expectations of holding strong with a refusal to negotiate, or in circumventing congressional Republicans entirely, were untethered from reality. There was no obvious and achievable way to avoid this crisis. Spending cuts of some kind were inevitable once the GOP took the House, and the question remaining is just how bad they’ll end up being,” correspondent Andrew Prokop wrote.
Did Biden Have Other Options on Debt Ceiling?
Could the White House have done an end-around to avoid concessions, either by invoking the 14th Amendment or by minting the Trillion-Dollar Coin? Possibly. But either strategy would likely have been challenged in the courts, and possibly struck down, leaving the White House in a worst position than where they started.
How could the White House have avoided such a crisis? They could have passed a larger debt ceiling increase last year, when they had majorities in both houses of Congress, or possibly even abolished the debt ceiling altogether. That way, they would not need to have such fights whenever Republicans are in control of either House of Congress and Democrats hold the White House.
Vox’s analysis stated that any move to raise the debt ceiling prior to the current Congress might have run into opposition in the Senate, especially from the likes of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sen. Krysten Sinema (I-AZ).
Back in January, Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) introduced a bill called the End the Threat of Default Act, which would abolish the ceiling, but it failed to advance since Republicans had already taken over control of the House by then.
“Weaponizing the debt ceiling and using it as a pawn in partisan budget negotiations is dangerous and repeatedly brings our nation to the brink of default, which would be disastrous to the U.S. economy – something we’ve witnessed as recently as 2011 when Republicans created a debt ceiling crisis that resulted in the first ever downgrade to the U.S. credit rating,” Foster said when he introduced the bill.
“So getting to this point has been a bit of a mess. But it isn’t yet clear how consequential these missteps were. Again, keep in mind that White House negotiations with Republicans over spending levels were unavoidable since a government shutdown deadline looms later this year. They were already going to have to negotiate on the spending,” the Vox analysis concluded. “The question now is whether Biden will end up getting a worse deal because of these negotiating missteps — and to assess that, we need a deal.”
Expertise and Experience
Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.