Biden takes debt ceiling pitch on road amid standoff with Republicans

May 10, 2023, 7:30 AM

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on February...

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on February 03, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Earlier in the day President Biden and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris visited a water treatment plant in the city where they announced $160 million to upgrade Philadelphia water facilities and replace 20 miles of lead service lines. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

(Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Originally Published: 10 MAY 23 06:00 ET

    (CNN) — President Joe Biden will take his case for raising the debt ceiling without conditions on the road to Valhalla, New York, Wednesday as he seeks to ramp up the public pressure campaign on lawmakers with the threat of default — and potential economic catastrophe — just over three weeks away.

The trip comes as the president is set to reconvene with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and congressional leaders on Friday after a one-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday reinforced the monthslong standoff over the debt ceiling with each side dug in on their positions.

Following the meeting, Biden said he “made it clear” to congressional leaders “that default is not an option,” adding he is “absolutely certain” the US could avert defaulting on its debt.

“I know we have the time, we could do it easily, but do we have the will?” the president said, reiterating his call for a clean debt ceiling increase before discussions about the budget and spending framework takes place.

“I didn’t see any new movement,” McCarthy, who is holding the line on spending cuts accompanying any debt limit hike, told reporters after the meeting. “I would hope that he’d be willing to negotiate for the next two weeks so we could actually solve this problem and not take America on the brink.”

As the stalemate in Washington, DC, continues, the president will turn his attention to courting support in competitive districts, holding an event in Valhalla, an area represented in part by Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, who flipped the state’s 17th congressional district from blue to red in last year’s midterm elections.

Lawler, who will be on hand for the event at SUNY Westchester Community College, is one of 18 GOP lawmakers representing districts Biden won in the 2020 presidential campaign. Each of those lawmakers has backed McCarthy’s approach, but the White House hopes it can build public pressure on those representatives to avert default.

On Tuesday, the president said he believes the country can avoid default because an “overwhelming number of members of … Congress know it would be a disaster.”

A White House official said the president would use his remarks to tout elements of his economic record, including creating 12.7 million jobs, and warn of “threats from MAGA Republicans in Congress to undo this progress by causing the first default in American history unless the Senate and president agree to their harmful cuts to veterans’ care, public safety, education, and more.”

Part of the president’s goal in this trip, officials said, is to lay out the impact a default would have on Americans, including threatening “8 million jobs, a recession, and retirement plans for millions.”

The White House’s top economists last week projected 8 million jobs could be lost and the stock market could be cut in half if the country were to endure a protracted default lasting three months. The economists predicted waiting until the last minute to take action on the debt ceiling would also have significant impacts, wiping out 200,000 jobs.

As the president takes his pitch on the road, White House and congressional leadership staff are expected to start talks heading into Friday’s meeting. McCarthy has said that Congress will need a deal in principle to raise the debt limit by next week. The president has left open the possibility of skipping his upcoming foreign travel to Japan and Australia later this month if the debt ceiling issue is not resolved in time.

After his event in the Hudson River Valley, Biden will raise money for his presidential campaign in a pair of New York City fundraisers Wednesday evening. They mark the president’s first in-person fundraisers as his reelection campaign gets underway.

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Related: Sen. Mitt Romney frustrated White House won’t negotiate on debt ceiling

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Biden takes debt ceiling pitch on road amid standoff with Republicans