Democrats took the offensive in the battle for hearts and minds concerning the debt ceiling, taking their message to the people in a series of press events on May 24.
“This is a manufactured crisis, plain and simple,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in an afternoon briefing.
“And don’t take our word for it; just listen to members of the House Freedom Caucus. They’ve been very honest about this and are now openly—they’re saying the quiet thing out loud, referring to the full faith and credit of the United States as a hostage,” Jean-Pierre said
She displayed a quote from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) saying that conservative Republicans don’t wish to “negotiate with our hostage.”
“And let’s be clear about what Republicans are demanding in exchange for doing their job and preventing a default. Earlier this year, they put forward an extreme package of devastating cuts that would slash support for education, law enforcement, food assistance—the list goes on and on and on and on—by what now would be about 30 percent,” Jean-Pierre said.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has repeatedly said that the spending reductions and caps included in the Limit, Save, Grow Act are “reasonable” and that Democrats are “addicted to spending.”
McCarthy chided Democrats during a May 24 press conference for their unwillingness to spend even “$1 less than you spent the year before.”
A host of Democrat voices have since echoed the White House position.
House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) also referred to the crisis as “manufactured” and accused Republicans of using strong-arm tactics to impose deep spending cuts.
“Why are House Republicans being so unreasonable and so extreme? Unfortunately, we can only really draw one conclusion as we are on the brink of default,” Jeffries said during a May 24 press conference.
“House Republicans are determined to either extract deep, painful cuts that will hurt the health, the safety, or the well-being of everyday Americans, or crash the economy, default on our debt, and trigger a painful recession,”
Jeffries believes the blame for a default, should it occur, will fall on Republicans.
“The extreme nature of the Republican behavior has now broken into the public domain, and that will only become more obvious by the day,” Jeffries told The Epoch Times on May 24.
The House Progressive Caucus, which includes more than 100 Democrat representatives, also blasted Republicans for bringing the country close to a financial catastrophe.
“Today, the United States is closer to default than we have ever been in our history for one reason: extreme Republican recklessness,” said caucus leader Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).
“It is clear that Republicans have no interest in cutting the deficit,” Jayapal said. “Their focus is on cutting taxes for their wealthiest benefactors: big corporations and billionaires who finance their campaigns. And they want you—working people across the country—to foot the bill.”
Republicans have rejected Democrat proposals to repeal tax subsidies for the oil industry, close some tax loopholes, and create a minimum tax rate for billionaires and global corporations, which could have saved $3 trillion, according to Jayapal.
The national debt stands at $31.4 trillion. Republicans have largely blamed Democrats for running up the debt by overspending. Democrats have countered that 25 percent of the total debt was added during the presidency of Donald Trump.
The country has operated on a deficit budget for most of its history, though the debt has accumulated much faster over the last 40 years. The government will lack the funds to meet government obligations in full on or sometime after June 1 if the borrowing limit is not raised, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
The Bipartisan Policy Center arrived at a similar estimate, saying a default is likely sometime between June 2 and June 13 unless Congress raises the ceiling.
Rep. Ann Kuster (D-N.H.) criticized Republicans for leaving Washington over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend while the threat of default looms over the country.
“June 1 is rapidly approaching, and there is no time to waste to prevent a default,” Kuster told reporters on May 25. “But instead of staying in town to hash out a bipartisan agreement, Republicans are sending the House of Representatives home.”
The House is set to be in recess from May 26 through June 4. The Senate is currently in recess and scheduled to return on May 30.
Jackson Richman contributed to this report.
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