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Thune: It’s About Time

“The ball is in the president’s court.”

May 2, 2023

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about Democrats’ hypocrisy when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. Thune noted that President Biden can either get serious about engaging in real negotiations with Speaker McCarthy and arrive at a genuine compromise or refuse to meaningfully engage and ensure that his presidency is remembered for a Democrat default on the debt. 

Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):

“Mr. President, it’s about time.


“Ninety days after his last meeting with Speaker McCarthy – and after weeks of point-blank refusal to engage in discussion – President Biden has finally agreed to meet with the speaker about debt ceiling legislation.


“I’ll say it again – it’s about time.


“If the administration’s estimate is correct, the United States is mere weeks away from reaching the limit of its borrowing capacity – which means, of course, that the president has to reach an agreement with the Republican-led House of Representatives on a debt ceiling bill – but the president has been completely AWOL on this issue.


“And while I am very pleased that the president’s treasury secretary has apparently managed to convey the urgency of the situation to the president, and that the president is actually going to sit down with Speaker McCarthy, it remains to be seen how seriously the president will take negotiations.


“He certainly hasn’t been taking this issue seriously so far.


“House Republicans have been taking this issue seriously.


“They’ve offered legislation to raise the debt ceiling, paired with spending reforms to slow the rate at which we’re accumulating debt.


“But up until 18 hours ago, the president was refusing to engage on the issue.  At all.


“The day Republicans passed their debt ceiling legislation last week, the president was asked if he would sit down with Speaker McCarthy to negotiate on the debt limit.


“His reply?


I’m happy to meet with the speaker, but not on the debt limit.  The debt limit isn’t negotiable.


“In other words – it’s my way or the highway.


“You either accept my position on the debt limit – a debt ceiling increase with no spending reforms – or I’ll let our nation default.


“Mr. President, if that’s not an unserious position, I don’t know what is.


“The fact is, in recent history increases in the debt limit have almost always been the result of negotiations.  


“And seven of the last 10 debt limit increases have included some mix of policy or budgetary changes rather than simply a clean increase.


“No matter how much President Biden would like his word on the debt ceiling to be law, the fact of the matter is that in our system of government, the president does not have absolute power. 


“And when the American people have sent divided government to Washington – as they did in the last election – then if you can’t persuade the other side to see things your way, you have to negotiate.  You have to compromise.


“President Biden understood this at one time.


“Back in 2011, here’s what then-Vice-President Biden had to say about lawmakers who didn’t want to negotiate on a debt ceiling increase: ‘How can you explain the fact that grown men and women are unwilling to budge up till now, and still some of them are still unwilling to budge, by taking an absolute position: my way or no way. That’s not governing. That’s no way to govern. You can’t govern that way.’


“Then-Vice-President Biden was right.

“And I am very much hoping that he will remember those words now and not only sit down with Speaker McCarthy, but actually commit to reaching a compromise. 


“I was not encouraged by a reference from the Senate Democrat leader’s office to sitting down with congressional leaders to discuss a ‘clean’ debt ceiling bill.


“That hardly displays an understanding of the fact that any debt ceiling legislation will require compromise between the White House and House Republicans.


“It’s also the height of hypocrisy for the Democrat leader to talk about a ‘clean’ debt ceiling bill when just a few years ago he was using the debt ceiling as leverage to negotiate with President Trump. 


“But apparently ‘one rule for me, another for thee’ is Democrats’ watchword. 


“Mr. President, our nation’s debt situation is very serious.


“Our current national debt is over $31 trillion – yes, $31 trillion – and is projected to grow to more than $50 trillion over the next decade.


“That is an unfathomable amount of money.


“And more to the point, it’s an extremely dangerous amount of money.


“Our national debt has already exceeded the size of our economy, which is a very dangerous marker to hit.


“Under our current trajectory, by 2033 debt held by the public will be at the highest level relative to GDP in history, exceeding post-World War II levels. 


“In fact, according to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, 50 cents of every dollar our country borrows in the next 10 years will go just toward paying the interest on our national debt.


“Debt at that level threatens economic growth.


“It sucks money away from essential government spending on things like Social Security and Medicare and our national defense.


“It leaves us excessively dependent on other countries – sometimes hostile countries – who hold our nation’s debt.


“And for all those reasons and more, it threatens our nation’s security.


“House Republican leaders are absolutely right to take this opportunity to insist on some attempt to at least slow our rate of spending.


“And the American people would seem to agree.


“A recent poll found that 65 percent of Americans – including 58 percent of Democrats – believe that the ‘debt ceiling debate is a good time to force tough issues, like cutting future spending to reduce the deficit.’


“Let me just repeat that.


“Sixty-five percent of Americans – including 58 percent of Democrats – believe that the ‘debt ceiling debate is a good time to force tough issues, like cutting future spending to reduce the deficit.’


“Let’s hope Democrats are paying attention.


“Mr. President, the ball is in the president’s court. 


“House Republicans have been at the table for a while now.


“They’ve offered ideas.


“They’ve put forward legislation.


“Now it’s up to President Biden.


“He can either get serious about this fundamental responsibility, engage in real negotiations with Speaker McCarthy, and arrive at a genuine compromise on debt ceiling legislation. 


“Or he can continue to refuse to meaningfully engage on this issue and ensure that his presidency is remembered not just for a massive inflation crisis, but for a Democrat default on the debt.


“The choice is his.


“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”