Biden Finally Contacts McCarthy, Debt Ceiling Talks to Resume

President Joe Biden finally changed his narrative on Monday by contacting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to discuss coordinating a meeting for May 9 to discuss the debt ceiling and avert a default. The call contradicts the White House’s previous official position. According to Punchbowl News, McCarthy, who was in Israel, received a call from Biden to plan a meeting to negotiate lifting the debt ceiling after days of stonewalling by the Democrats.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday, stated that they were not negotiating the debt ceiling and that they had been extremely explicit regarding the matter.

McCarthy and House Republicans passed a package to increase the debt ceiling on Wednesday. According to reports, McCarthy’s successful passage of the measure caught the Biden administration off guard. The passage of a debt-limit bill did more than shatter the myth that the Republican House, particularly Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will forever be in disarray. Removing one of the primary components of the Democrats’ political argument called into doubt their strategic objective.

The White House’s uncompromising stance persisted into Monday afternoon when Jean-Pierre remarked, “It’s not a plan.” According to Jean-Pierre, the House measure was a surefire recipe for economic disaster. She said House Republicans must perform their duties. Congress must take action.

The surprise came late Monday afternoon. Biden contacted McCarthy about an hour after the above White House press briefing.

As Biden and McCarthy prepare to negotiate, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-CA) has announced hearings on the House bill in an attempt to condemn it publicly. Schumer has failed to pass his measure or vote on the House bill.

So, what happens now that the House has passed its bill but not the Senate? 

The old “Schoolhouse Rock” method of legislating would see the House approve its bill, the Senate passes its version, and the two form a House-Senate conference committee to settle the differences. This scenario is implausible in light of the debt ceiling hike.

Almost all Democrats support a “clean” debt limit increase. They want to raise the credit limit on the nation’s debt without enacting any budget cuts. (They claim they will negotiate expenditure levels separately, not as part of the debt limit.)

However, most legislation requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and move forward in the Senate, and Democrats hold only 51 Senate seats. As a result, for the bill to pass the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., must persuade nine Republicans — ten if Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who is recovering from shingles in California, is not available — to accept a clean debt ceiling hike. That scenario is improbable, as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would rely on his troops to vote against a Schumer-led bill.

Indeed, rather than wasting precious Senate floor time on a measure he believes will fail, Schumer may not bring a debt limit bill to the Senate floor at all. However, this strategy would allow lower chamber members to ask a simple question: Why won’t the Senate follow suit after the House passed a debt-limit bill?

Now that Republicans in the House have agreed to a debt-limit bill, Democrats should agree to meet in a room, figure out each side’s stance, and reach an agreement that would hopefully raise the debt ceiling while addressing the country’s dire budgetary situation. It’s referred to as “legislating” — Congress’ job.

Biden probably realizes that he has been out-maneuvered by McCarthy and the Republicans, and they can no longer blame the GOP if the U.S. defaults on their debt.