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Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks Condemning Speaker McCarthy’s Refusal To Take Default Off The Table In Debt Ceiling Talks

Washington, D.C.  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor on Speaker McCarthy continuing to threaten catastrophic default following yesterday’s White House meeting with President Biden and Congressional leaders regarding the debt ceiling. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Yesterday afternoon, I met with President Biden, Speaker McCarthy, Leader McConnell, and Leader Jeffries at the White House to discuss how we can take default off the table, while making separate progress on an annual budget.

There was bad news and good news coming out of yesterday’s White House meeting.

The bad news, Speaker McCarthy refused—absolutely refused—to take default off the table.

He was the only holdout during yesterday’s meeting. President Biden said that no matter what, default should be taken off the table.

Leader Jeffries said default is off the table.

I committed to taking default off the table.

Even Leader McConnell said unequivocally that no matter what, the U.S. will not default.

But Speaker McCarthy, Speaker McCarthy alone, refused to take the threat of catastrophic default off the table. I asked him pointedly if he would join us. But during yesterday’s meeting, he was the sole holdout.

Instead of taking default off the table, Speaker McCarthy is taking default hostage.

If anyone wonders what the biggest problem for avoiding default right now is, it is Speaker McCarthy insisting he’ll exploit default to push a hard right agenda. Speaker McCarthy realizes his hard right agenda would never become law on its own, because the American people are so opposed. So instead, he is holding the country hostage to default. It is dangerous. It is reckless.

Avoiding default should not be contingent on passing the GOP’s hard-right partisan agenda.

And the American people overwhelmingly agree. A recent Washington Post-ABC poll found that when Americans were asked if debt limit and federal spending should be handled separately or together, 58% of Americans believe they should be handled separately, just as we are saying, just as President Biden is saying. Only 26% of Americans say they should be linked, as Speaker McCarthy is proposing to do. Even 46% of Republicans said it should be handled separately, a plurality of Republicans. Forty six percent is against what Speaker McCarthy is doing by tying the two together. They realize—Americans realize how dangerous this is.

So again, avoiding default should not be contingent on passing the GOP’s hard right agenda. Certainly not one that will make drastic cuts to veterans, to health care services, run a buzz saw through federal law enforcement, and abandon our seniors and working families. What’s more, the GOP’s extremist bill is riddled with unrelated hard right policies—it would gut rules for corporations, hollow out environmental law, and cut health care for millions of our nation’s most vulnerable.

The cherry on top? Not much of a cherry; a sour cherry: MAGA Republicans want to undo Democrats’ marquee legislation to invest in America, advance energy security, and reduce the deficit.

That is the agenda Speaker McCarthy believes is worth threatening default.

Now, the good news.  The good news is that President Biden has asked the four leaders and our teams to sit down and begin talking about where we can agree on budget and appropriations. Our staffs will be having conversations beginning today that are part of the regular appropriations process.

Now, Speaker McCarthy will have plenty of say over the budget in the appropriations process. That is the proper place to have these debates, not during conversations about the full faith and credit of the United States.

When President Trump was in office—and I was minority leader—I hated the Trump tax cuts and what they did to my state and my country. I could have easily said “I’m holding default hostage unless we repeal the Trump tax cuts, unless we undo the Republicans’ signature issue.”

But, of course, I didn’t do that, because I knew the consequences of default would be too severe. But Speaker McCarthy is doing the same thing; he’s taking our signature issue—one of the leading ones, the IRA—and holding it hostage, saying he is tying it to default.

So again, Speaker McCarthy must commit to taking default off the table, and then we will continue to have a separate conversation with Republicans about the budget. And as I said and as everyone knows, the Speaker has plenty of say over the appropriations process. He won’t be left out.

And if the Speaker wants to be honest, by the way, about the drivers of the debt, he should take a cold hard look at the damage caused by Republican tax cuts. Next week, the Senate Budget Committee, led by Chairman Whitehouse, will hold a hearing focused precisely on how GOP Tax cuts have been primarily responsible for increasing the debt-to-GDP ratio. I thank Chairman Whitehouse and members of the committee for their continued work on exposing the GOP’s destructive policies. The committee will make it clear: much of the debt came at the insistence of the Republican president, the Republican senators,  the Republican House members. But only now with a Democratic president, does Speaker McCarthy do this awful, dangerous gambit of holding default hostage.

I urge the Speaker and my Republican colleagues to come to their senses about avoiding default.

Mr. Speaker: you’re standing alone in that meeting. Take the needless, reckless threat of default off the table.

Time is of the essence, and there’s nothing stopping us from coming together in a bipartisan way, as we regularly have, to ensure that America can continue to pay its bills.