Biden thinks he has the higher political ground
“I think this president is always interested in having serious bipartisan discussions to look where we can find agreement. Discussions when you refuse to negotiate. Interesting.
Refusing to negotiate can be a dangerous proposition, but the White House thinks raising the debt ceiling should not be about negotiations — especially if doing so could result in changes to Medicare and Social Security.
They believe the public will back them on this, which is another reason why Biden and the White House are saying they won’t exchange spending cuts for a debt ceiling hike.
“It is essential for Congress to recognize that dealing with the debt ceiling is their constitutional responsibility. This is an easy one. This is something that should be happening without conditions,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Wednesday.
If negotiations go down to the wire, the White House is confident that many Americans will hold Republicans responsible for any economic repercussions or changes to popular programs like Social Security and Medicare, putting significant pressure on the party’s moderates to cut a deal with Democrats.
Staking out an early position
The Treasury Department has enacted “extraordinary measures” that will allow the U.S. to pay its debts for the next few months. While the exact timeline is unclear, it is believed lawmakers will have until June to broker a deal.
By refusing to budge now, the White House thinks it will be better positioned to set the terms of the negotiations to come.
Experts believe some concessions are going to be unavoidable for the White House. Republicans control the House, and the roughly 20 conservatives who prevented McCarthy from being elected Speaker for several rounds of voting carry significant influence given the small margins.
Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce, said that a debt limit increase has to be bipartisan, despite the White House insisting now that they won’t negotiate.
“If your goal is to avoid default, this is not a good strategic approach coming from the administration. And it kind of defies the reality, which is that there are bipartisan things that the Democrats or Republicans could reach agreement on to affect our fiscal situation. This approach from the White House simply seems to rule that out and ignore that reality,” Bradley said.
Biden frequently boasts about reducing the deficit during his first two years in office, and there may be some middle ground for the two sides in the months to come. But in the interim, the White House is laying down a marker that programs like Medicare and Social Security should remain untouched.
“I think this president is always interested in having serious bipartisan discussions to look where we can find agreement,” said Gene Sperling, a senior adviser to Biden who was in the White House during the 2011 talks. “Let’s be clear: We are not going to do it as a condition on the debt limit.”