Biden touts accomplishments while GOP threatens debt ceiling disaster
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is trying to hold everything Biden has accomplished hostage in exchange for a vote to raise the debt limit. The Republican plan would kill everything from infrastructure to health care to plans to save the environment for the next ten years, to mention only a few of the things the GOP wants to slash. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

WASHINGTON—In full-throated campaign mode, since he announced his bid for re-election just hours before, Democratic President Joe Biden launched his 2024 run for the White House with a stem-winding—and long and sometimes folksy—recapitulation of his and their achievements before an audience of 3,000 Building Trades members.

But the day after the president’s long list of joint achievements, which he will tout on the campaign trail, the right-wing House Republican majority approved raising the federal debt limit only in exchange for wiping out all the Biden accomplishments. Their measure passed the House on a narrow party-line vote and is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate.

For the GOP, gone would be the economic recovery, funds for infrastructure, combatting global warming, and for jobless benefits which pulled the nation out of the coronavirus-caused Depression. Also gone: The pro-worker provisions Biden touted, such as requiring prevailing wages and Project Labor Agreements on all federally funded building projects.

Otherwise, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and the Republicans threaten to tank the economy by failing to raise the debt limit, meaning the U.S. would be unable to pay its past bills for the first time ever.

On April 26, Biden told the construction workers that failure would immediately cost 870,000 jobs.

That debt limit hike, to pay for programs already adopted and for money already spent, could easily be avoided, as could the right-wingers’ demands, if the Treasury Department exercised its authority to issue a special $1 trillion bond to cover the needed amount, numerous economists have noted. Such a move would take fierce determination by Democrats to challenge the bullying from the right-wing Republicans and tamp down the nefarious doings of sell-out members of their own party, chief among which is Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

Biden was repeatedly interrupted by applause and sometimes by whistles, cheers, and chants of “Four more years!” from the North America’s Building Trades Unions’ legislative conference on April 25. The conferees, virtually all local union activists, at one point cheered for so long that Biden had to stop and wait for several minutes.

In 2020, Biden narrowly carried the nation’s most-heavily industrial state, Wisconsin, against Republican Donald Trump. His margins were somewhat wider in swing states Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. He lost Ohio, which is slowly turning redder, 45%-53%, and never had a chance in Indiana. Biden thumped Trump in Illinois (58%-41%) and New York (61%-38%).

In turn, Biden gave the workers generous credit for helping to elect him to the White House in 2020, in his prior Senate career, and in steering his program through a closely split Congress in 2021-22—and especially for the five-year $1.2 trillion Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which the construction unions and their members lobbied long and hard for in those years.

And Biden got in some digs at the “MAGA Republicans,” too. After all, he repeatedly told the audience, they want to repeal almost all the measures he, they, and congressional Democrats enacted to pull the economy out of the coronavirus-caused Depression.

He even used the infrastructure law for a shot, by name, at his erstwhile foe, Trump. The legally and politically troubled former builder currently leads in his party’s polls and has the GOP kowtowing to him, wrapped around his little finger, or both.

Biden quoted a New York Times article: “President Biden appears to be presiding over the kind of manufacturing surge that Trump had promised.”

But Biden spent most of his speech touting the infrastructure achievements and blasting the House Republicans for trying to repeal them in their budget blueprint, which was scheduled for a floor vote on April 25 or later.

He conveniently omitted to mention the other half of his coronavirus recovery plan, which conservative Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., the key swing vote on those social program boosts, forced Biden to drastically whittle, under threat of sinking it in what was then a 50-50 Senate. Biden’s only reference to future plans was a repeated exhortation: “Let’s finish the job!”

“Under my predecessor, ‘Infrastructure Week’ became a punchline,” Biden declared. “On my watch, infrastructure has become a decade headline. A decade.” That’s an admission, which he later explicitly repeated, saying that while shovels have hit the ground for many infrastructure projects, “These things take time.”

And Biden repeatedly reminded the crowd that almost all the accomplishments occurred “without one Republican vote.” The infrastructure law was the exception. Even some House Republicans, and most Senate Republicans, voted for it, so Biden didn’t use the zero-Republican-support line then.

The coming job surge, in “green” factories and plants making semiconductor computer chips, will remake the economy and make the U.S. #1 in manufacturing again, he stated, without proof. Those plants will be union-built, Biden declared, with prevailing wage guarantees and using Project Labor Agreements. And all the materials “will be made in America.” Those lines got more cheers.

When Biden wasn’t touting his and their achievements, he got in digs against “the MAGA Republicans,” especially the combination of their fealty to Trump and their power to force weak House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to dance to the Trumpite tune. Biden even turned a Trump statement against McCarthy and his minions.

That’s because the Speaker is—at the MAGAites’ demand—threatening to send the U.S. into default on its past debts unless Biden and the Democrats bow to McCarthy’s planned 22% cut in domestic spending and his threats to Medicare and Social Security. McCarthy would also eliminate the Project Labor Agreements and prevailing wage guarantees of the infrastructure law, said Biden.

A default, Biden forecast, would immediately cost 870,000 jobs. It also would blow the U.S.’s credit rating to hell. Even Trump recognized that.

“Little did I think I’d be quoting Donald Trump,” Biden deadpanned. “But even Donald Trump said, ‘I can’t imagine [anyone] ever thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge.’”  Raising the federal debt ceiling is the technical term for setting a new and higher debt limit.

“These guys are saying unless I agree to cut all these programs by 22%…and cut taxes for the super wealthy and corporations,” they won’t raise the debt ceiling.

“Folks, America is not a deadbeat nation.  We pay our bills.”

As might be expected, the crowd was enthusiastic. One building trades union, the Electrical Workers (IBEW), went beyond that and “jumped the gun,” so to speak. No sooner had Biden announced his re-election bid in a video that morning than IBEW announced its endorsement.

“When the IBEW endorsed candidate Joe Biden in 2019, it was because of his commitment to creating good union jobs, protecting secure retirements, addressing climate change responsibly, and investing in American manufacturing. President Joe Biden has delivered on all of these pledges: Promises made and promises kept,” union President Kenneth Cooper’s statement read in part.

“Throughout his first term, President Biden has been a steadfast ally of unions and American workers. I am confident that support will continue in his second term,” Cooper continued. “The Biden-Harris administration consistently advanced policies that empower workers, created opportunities for everyday people, and promoted the well-being of working families.

“As a direct result,” Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have “overseen robust economic growth, increased worker wages, and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years.”

Biden, too, touted the 3.5% jobless rate and bragged about the 12.6 million new jobs businesses claimed to create on his watch. Federal data show even more than that are in the private sector. Its job numbers have soared beyond pre-coronavirus figures under Trump. State government jobs, however, mostly in schools, still lag behind the numbers they had before the crash hit.

We hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, please support great working-class and pro-people journalism by donating to People’s World.

We are not neutral. Our mission is to be a voice for truth, democracy, the environment, and socialism. We believe in people before profits. So, we take sides. Yours!

We are part of the pro-democracy media contesting the vast right-wing media propaganda ecosystem brainwashing tens of millions and putting democracy at risk.

Our journalism is free of corporate influence and paywalls because we are totally reader supported. At People’s World, we believe news and information should be free and accessible to all.

But we need your help. It takes money—a lot of it—to produce and cover unique stories you see in our pages. Only you, our readers and supporters, make this possible. If you enjoy reading People’s World and the stories we bring you, support our work by donating or becoming a monthly sustainer today.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.