Are lawmakers close to a deal to raise the debt limit?
Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., told the press to stop making it look like the debt crisis was equally the fault of Republicans and Democrats. 'Put the blame where it belongs,' she said, 'on the Republicans. They are the ones willing to tank the economy.' | Francis Chung / POLITICO via AP

President Biden and Republican House leaders reached a deal yesterday that would hike the debt limit for two years while putting a ceiling on federal spending on everything except the military and veterans benefits. That would prevent Republicans from holding the nation hostage again for the remainder of the Biden administration.

The idea behind the deal, details of which were not available at press time, theoretically allows the Republicans to say they successfully cut some federal spending, even though military spending would continue to grow, while Democrats could say they saved most of their priorities in domestic spending and addressing the climate crisis.

Most observers say that such a deal could lose substantial votes on each side of the aisle, from  Democrats who oppose cuts in domestic programs and from Republicans, starting with the MAGA Freedom Caucus, who favor deep spending cuts, gutting the IRS, and lining the pockets of the rich at the expense of the poor. The final vote requiring 218 to pass the House could be close and will definitely need Democratic support to pass.

MAGA House Republicans, backers of the January 6 insurrection, are demanding a “ransom” to raise the federal debt ceiling. They threaten government default, chaos, and economic calamity for millions of working families and the most vulnerable to extort President Biden and Democrats into agreeing.

(We) “don’t feel like we should negotiate with our hostage,” blurted MAGA Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. Their ransom must be met by June 1 or else.

The Republican “ransom note,” the Limit, Save, Grow Act (LSGA), imposes massive budget cuts to social safety net programs and federal work requirements for federal assistance, repeals climate legislation, and guts environmental protections in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Republicans passed the Act by one vote (thanks to George Santos) in April.

If passed, the LSGA will suspend the debt ceiling only through March 31, 2024, when the “hostage” crisis will resume. MAGA Republicans will never release their “hostage,” and the demands will grow more extreme.

Republicans know the LSGA would never pass the Democratic U.S. Senate during a regular legislative process, and President Biden would never sign it. So, they are autocratically using the debt crisis to impose it on the American people.

“Who has the GOP taken hostage… It’s not The White House. It’s not Congress. It’s not Democrats. It’s the American people,” declared Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass. Congressional Democrats unanimously signed a discharge petition to force a vote for a “clean” debt ceiling increase. They vow to block destructive cuts to people-serving programs and the clean energy transition.

MAGA Republicans insist the only “compromise” they will make is raising the debt ceiling if they get their way. So far, they refuse to budge from their ransom. They are willing to tank the economy, spark a global financial crisis, and blame Biden and the Democrats in order to capture the presidency and Congressional majorities in the 2024 elections.

Whatever “compromise” Speaker Kevin McCarthy hammers out with President Biden and Democratic leaders short of the “ransom” demands are unlikely to be accepted by many in his fractious caucus, primarily the House Freedom Caucus, the most extreme MAGA Republicans. Therefore, McCarthy would need Democratic votes to pass it.

Corporate media blames both sides

The corporate mainstream media continues to blame both sides for this crisis as if it’s just a normal part of the give-and-take of governing. They treat the GOP as a legitimate party instead of the fascist mob it is. Meanwhile, they ignore the unprecedented way the GOP bypasses the legislative process and threatens economic calamity if they don’t get their way.

Some media even suggest Democrats and President Biden would be willing to “tank the economy” to avoid compromising. An incensed Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair, Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash, corrected a reporter, “THEY are willing to tank it. No, no, no. Sorry. That is exactly the problem when the media reports this as not (the GOP’s) fault. I know so many of you. I have so much respect for what you do. But let’s tell the truth here. We are not tanking anything.”

Over 70% of Americans are concerned about the potential government default, and 51% think budget negotiations should be separate from negotiations over raising the debt ceiling. Only 25% believe they should be tied together; many still need to be clear about what’s at stake.

Republicans would cap discretionary spending at 2022 levels for ten years, meaning an 18% cut in federal discretionary spending, even higher if they exempt Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans benefits. They also want to repeal most of the energy and tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), blocking the transition to clean energy and boosting the fossil fuel industry, a critical financial backer of the MAGA movement.

The LSGA also imposes work requirements for food assistance and other federal safety net programs, guts regulation of polluting industries, and eliminates Biden’s student debt relief cancellation.

Republicans refuse to discuss reducing the debt by raising taxes on the wealthy. The LSGA would repeal extra funding in the IRA to bolster the IRS to go after rich tax cheats. Biden’s 2024 budget proposal would slash the debt by $3 trillion over ten years by repealing the $2 trillion Trump tax cut to the wealthiest Americans.

“This is also not about debt and it is not about spending,” said Rep. Clark. “Republicans racked up $8 trillion in debt under Donald Trump, one-quarter of everything we owe, and at the same time Republicans raised the debt ceiling three times no strings attached.”

MAGA Republicans want to permanently extend the Trump tax cuts, most set to expire in 2025, against Democratic majority opposition. According to the Congressional Budget Office, $3.5 trillion would be added to the federal debt over the next decade, wiping out everything Republicans claim to save through the LSGA.

“(Republicans) want to protect tax cuts on yachts and private jets and make single moms pay for it. And that’s where we say no,” declared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “Why are Republicans valuing billionaires over veterans and single moms? This is shameful.”

MAGA Republicans are determined to gain power at whatever cost and impose their agenda of radically reducing taxes on the wealthy, eliminating the social safety net benefits, and gutting environmental protections, even though an anti-MAGA majority has rejected that agenda in the last three elections. Only a massive voter turnout in 2024 that defeats every MAGA Republican can end the “hostage crisis.”

We hope you appreciated this article. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all, but we need your help. Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader-supported. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, please support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today. Thank you!


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.