House Majority Whip Emmer says Senate can bypass Biden on debt-ceiling bill

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

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Sunday, as the oft-outlandish public spat between Republicans and President Joe Biden over the nation’s debt ceiling continued to rage online, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), the third-highest-ranking Republican in the House, said something that, on its surface, seems mathematically unlikely. 

Emmer, the House Majority Whip, told CNN’s “State of the Union” that he thought it was possible for the two sides to negate the need for Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to negotiate if the Democrat-controlled Senate will pass the Republican-backed House’s debt-ceiling bill. 

“Republicans in the House, led by Kevin McCarthy, have passed the solution,” Emmer said. “This is no longer about politics,” Emmer continued, “House Republicans will not allow Americans to default on their debt. We showed that last week. The solution is in the Senate right now. Again, you pass that solution, that solves the problem.”

Emmer put the onus back on Democrats to ensure that the country can doesn’t move into a default on its loans.  “If you don’t like it then I suppose [Biden’s] next step is to start to talk to our speaker and tell him what you would like to change so that you make sure we don’t default on our debt,” Emmer stated.

In an America where discourse tends to fluctuate between boisterous overstatement and pearl-clinching histrionics, Emmer might have found a new rhetorical strategy – stating the implausible and working to achieve it. 

The conservative solution is a bill that would cap federal spending at 2022 levels, roll back Inflation Reduction Act environmental measures, slash IRS funding, reclaim unused COVID-19 funds, and place tighter work requirements for Medicaid and food-stamp recipients while also raising the debt ceiling through the end of March 2024.

Emmer noted that Democrats have falsely been claiming that the House plan looks to cut federal spending, when in fact they are looking to keep spending locked in at its current levels.

Naturally, Democrat leaders have panned the Republicans’ Limit, Save, Grow Act, the full FISM breakdown of which can be found here

“House Republicans passed a bill that amounts to nothing more than a hard-right ransom note to the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Thursday. “The Republican Default on America Act (DOA) does nothing to resolve the looming debt crisis—it only makes a default more likely.It has no hopes of ever becoming law.”

The Minnesota Congressman, though, is banking that there are enough moderate Democrats in the Senate to, with suitable concessions from Republicans, sway the matter in favor of the right. 

“To say that it’s dead on arrival in the Senate, when you’ve got even [West Virginia Democratic Sen.] Joe Manchin suggesting support for this type of approach, I think that’s not exactly accurate,” Emmer said on CNN. “If you don’t like something in it, if you have ideas of your own, our speaker is more than willing, I’m sure, to listen to those.”

Biden and McCarthy have been at odds, though never truly at the bargaining table, for weeks. When Republicans passed their debt-ceiling bill in the House, the situation devolved into mudslinging of a sort that, at times, has been beyond parody. 

“The Biden White House claimed the Republican plan to responsibly lift the debt ceiling would ‘literally melt bones,’” McCarthy tweeted Saturday. “Get serious. Our plan claws back billions in unspent COVID money & limits spending levels to what they were just 4 months ago. It’s not radical—it’s responsible.”

While McCarthy’s bone-melting statement might seem like the stuff of fiction, the speaker was accurately quoting a member of the Biden administration. 

When it comes to the nation’s debt ceiling, Republicans and Democrats in both chambers of Congress and the White House have proven equally willing to resort to cartoonish levels of melodrama in service to their political goals. 

Few have gone quite as far in their remarks as White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre did two weeks ago when she accused Republicans of creating a plan that would leave American adults jobless, children with a serious respiratory illness, and at least some people with liquified appendages.  

“It’s a 320-page plan to kill jobs, fill our cities with smog, and give asthma to our children,” Jean-Pierre said at a press briefing April 21. “The proposal would repeal the Inflation Reduction Act’s green energy tax credits, sending thousands of jobs back to China.  It would make it easier for oil companies to use toxic chemicals that cause severe burns, damage people’s eyes, and quite literally melt bones.”

Ultimately, the two parties are mostly shouting about a matter the outcome of which was long ago determined. 

It would be political suicide for Democrats and Biden to allow a default, especially without ever making a real effort to negotiate; and it would be equally harmful to Republican electoral efforts to be too stubborn on increasing the debt ceiling to make any compromises. A default would harm working-class Americans, particularly through higher interest rates and potentially staggering inflation. 

Given that each side needs the other in order to avoid calamity, the issue will, as it has in years past, almost certainly come down to an eleventh-hour agreement. The only question will be how much, if anything, McCarthy and the Republicans can extract from the left.