Biden refuses to accept work requirements for Medicaid in GOP debt ceiling talks

President Biden said Wednesday that he will not accept any of the Medicaid work requirements in the Republican debt ceiling plan, leaving no room for negotiation even as he admitted to supporting work requirements in the past.

“I’m not going to accept any work requirements that’s going to impact on medical health needs of people,” Biden told reporters Wednesday. “I’m not going to accept any work requirements that go much beyond what is already – well, I voted years ago for the work requirements that exist, but it’s possible there could be a few others, but not anything of any consequence.” 

House GOP lawmakers included new work requirements for able-bodied adults to qualify for Medicaid in the Limit, Save, Grow Act. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated these requirements would save $109 billion in the next decade. Still, Democrats oppose the measure because they say it will make it harder for poor people to access benefits. 

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has said requiring Americans to work before they receive government benefits will “help lift millions of Americans out of poverty.” 

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“Right now, there are more job openings than people looking for work, in part because the Biden administration has weakened some of the very work requirements that then-Sen. Biden previously supported,” McCarthy said during a floor speech on April 19. 

“Our plan ensures adults without dependents earn a paycheck and learn new skills. By restoring these common sense measures, we can help more Americans earn a paycheck, learn new skills, reduce childhood poverty, and rebuild the workforce,” the speaker said. “It will also protect and preserve Medicare and Social Security because more people will be paying into it.” 

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The White House and cleaders are engaged in tense negotiations as an early June deadline to raise the debt ceiling quickly approaches. Biden has issued a veto threat against the current GOP plan, which passed the House in April. 

McCarthy said Monday there’s been “no movement” as Republicans seek spending cuts in any deal while Democrats want a clean debt ceiling increase and the president has demanded spending talks be kept separate from debt limit talks. 

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“If you look at the timeline to pass something in the House and pass something in the Senate, you’ve got to have something done by this week, and we are nowhere near any of that,” McCarthy told reporters.

Nevertheless, Biden expressed confidence Wednesday that a deal will be reached in time. 

“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget. America will not default, and every leader in the room understands the consequences if we fail to pay our bills, and it would be catastrophic for the American economy, the American people, if we didn’t pay our bills,” he said. 

Fox News’ Greg Wehner contributed to this report.

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