President Joe Biden took his case for raising the debt ceiling without conditions on the road to Valhalla, New York, Wednesday as he seeks to ramp up the public pressure campaign on lawmakers with the threat of default – and potential economic catastrophe – just over three weeks away.
In his speech, Biden once again blasted Republicans for “holding the economy hostage” on the nation’s debt, saying Republican threats “are dangerous and they make no sense.”
“They’re literally, not figuratively, holding the economy hostage by threatening to default on our nation’s debt,” Biden said of “extreme MAGA Republicans.”
“We’re bringing jobs back all across America. This is no time to put all this at risk, to threaten a recession, to put at risk millions of jobs, to undermine America’s standing in the world,” Biden said.
The trip comes as the president is set to reconvene with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and congressional leaders on Friday after a one-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Tuesday reinforced the monthslong standoff over the debt ceiling with each side dug in on their positions.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, Biden said he “made it clear” to congressional leaders “that default is not an option,” adding he is “absolutely certain” the US could avert defaulting on its debt.
“I know we have the time, we could do it easily, but do we have the will?” the president said, reiterating his call for a clean debt ceiling increase before discussions about the budget and spending framework takes place.
“I didn’t see any new movement,” McCarthy, who is holding the line on spending cuts accompanying any debt limit hike, told reporters after the meeting. “I would hope that he’d be willing to negotiate for the next two weeks so we could actually solve this problem and not take America on the brink.”
As the stalemate in Washington, DC, continues, the president turned his attention to courting support in competitive districts, holding an event in Valhalla, an area represented in part by Republican Rep. Mike Lawler, who flipped the state’s 17th congressional district from blue to red in last year’s midterm elections.
Biden briefly met with Lawler backstage before his event at SUNY Westchester Community college, a White House official said.
“It was a good and frank discussion on debt ceiling and immigration,” the official said.
Lawler, who was on hand for the event, is one of 18 GOP lawmakers representing districts Biden won in the 2020 presidential campaign. Each of those lawmakers has backed McCarthy’s approach, but the White House hopes it can build public pressure on those representatives to avert default.
On Tuesday, the president said he believes the country can avoid default because an “overwhelming number of members of … Congress know it would be a disaster.”
Part of the president’s goal in this trip, White House officials said, is to lay out the impact a default would have on Americans, including threatening “8 million jobs, a recession, and retirement plans for millions.”
The White House’s top economists last week projected 8 million jobs could be lost and the stock market could be cut in half if the country were to endure a protracted default lasting three months. The economists predicted waiting until the last minute to take action on the debt ceiling would also have significant impacts, wiping out 200,000 jobs.
As the president takes his pitch on the road, White House and congressional leadership staff are expected to start talks heading into Friday’s meeting. McCarthy has said that Congress will need a deal in principle to raise the debt limit by next week. The president has left open the possibility of skipping his upcoming foreign travel to Japan and Australia later this month if the debt ceiling issue is not resolved in time.
After his event in the Hudson River Valley, Biden will raise money for his presidential campaign in a pair of New York City fundraisers Wednesday evening. They mark the president’s first in-person fundraisers as his reelection campaign gets underway.
This story has been updated with additional developments.