WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about President Biden’s refusal to negotiate a debt ceiling deal with Speaker McCarthy. Thune noted that if the president continues to reject compromise, something he used to embrace during previous debt ceiling negotiations, he is going to be solely responsible for the economic crisis that follows.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, it’s May 10.
“If the president’s treasury secretary is correct, in three weeks the United States could reach the limit of its borrowing capacity and – absent an agreement between the president and Congress to raise the debt ceiling – begin to default on its debts.
“But if you think that means the president has gotten serious about reaching a debt ceiling agreement, you’d be wrong.
“The president did invite the Democrat and Republican leaders of the House and Senate to the White House yesterday.
“Presumably, one would think, to finally begin negotiating.
“But as it turned out, the meeting was apparently little more than an occasion for the president to reiterate his position that he won’t negotiate.
“Mr. President, here’s the political reality.
“The president can’t raise the debt ceiling by himself.
“He has to work with Congress.
“And more specifically, he has to work with Speaker McCarthy and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
“That’s just the reality.
“The American people sent divided government to Washington last November, and divided government requires compromise.
“It requires negotiation.
“And frankly, Mr. President, it is the height of arrogance for the president – and the Senate Democrat leader – to think that they are somehow the exception to that.
“To think that they should be able to simply decree what they want – in this case, an increase in the debt ceiling with no spending reforms – and have everyone else just fall in line.
“That’s not the way our system of government works.
“I get that the president would like things to work that way.
“But they don’t.
“And the sooner he accepts that fact the better.
“Because the fiscal stability of our country is hanging in the balance here.
“And unless the president comes to the negotiating table for real, he is going to be responsible for the United States defaulting on its debts.
“Mr. President, let’s talk for a minute about why the president doesn’t want to negotiate – why he is insisting on a “clean” debt ceiling bill.
“Well, it’s simple, Mr. President.
“House Republicans want to pair any increase in the debt ceiling with spending reforms.
“And the president doesn’t want anything that will restrain his spending.
“He is intent on expanding the size and reach of the federal government.
“And spending reforms would get in the way.
“What President Biden does not seem to realize, however, is that our nation is on an unsustainable spending trajectory.
“Spending under the Biden administration has reached staggering levels.
“The total federal budget for fiscal year 2023 is up approximately 40 percent from 2019, the last budget before the pandemic.
“And under the president’s budget, over the next decade the federal budget would reach a staggering $10 trillion – a 125 percent increase from its pre-pandemic level.
“Mr. President, our country – and our economy – cannot take that level of spending.
“Between October and March, the federal government borrowed $6 billion a day.
“That’s more than the entire 2023 budget for my state of South Dakota.
“Debt at that level threatens economic growth.
“It jeopardizes our national security and leaves us excessively dependent on other countries who hold our nation’s debt.
“And it sucks money away from essential government spending on things like Social Security and Medicare and our national defense.
“Just paying the interest on our debt is taking a toll on our nation’s budget.
“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 interest on our national debt.
“By 2028, we will be spending more on interest than on national defense.
“By 2044, we will be spending more on interest than on Medicare.
“And by 2050, we will be spending more on interest than on Social Security.
“How are we going to be able to pay for these programs and other essential government functions if we’re spending that much money just meeting the interest on our national debt?
“Mr. President, negotiating over the debt ceiling is hardly new.
“Seven of the last 10 debt limit increases have included some mix of policy or budgetary changes rather than simply a clean increase.
“And the Democrat leader of the U.S. Senate – the same Democrat leader who is now insisting on a ‘clean’ debt ceiling increase – is on the record during the last administration talking about using the debt ceiling as leverage to achieve Democrat priorities.
“So the president and the Democrat leader’s outrage that they might have to yield to the realities of divided government and actually have to negotiate over the debt ceiling is a little hard to swallow.
“And it is profoundly disturbing that with a national debt in excess of $31 trillion – and growing every day – the president and the Democrat leader can’t be brought to consider even the mildest spending reforms.
“Mr. President, House Republicans have proposed reasonable spending reforms.
“The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget – where the president’s own treasury secretary used to sit on the board – called the Republican bill ‘a serious package’ and ‘a realistic and extremely welcome first step.’
“But if the president doesn’t like the House’s proposed spending reforms, he should put forward his own reform proposals.
“What he should not do – and cannot responsibly do – is continue to refuse to engage in negotiations.
“If he continues to reject compromise, if he continues to insist that it’s his way and no other, then come June he will be responsible for our nation defaulting on its debts.
“The president has already spent us into an inflation crisis.
“Let’s hope he can see his way to negotiating before he plunges us into a default crisis as well.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”