Polls Show Strong Public Support For Biden To Increase Debt Ceiling

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Joe Biden
Prseident Joe Biden

When President Joe Biden addressed the debt ceiling negotiations Wednesday at a union event in Maryland, he uncharacteristically took Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to task, calling House GOP demands "wacko" and "really dangerous."

“We’ve never ever defaulted on a debt. It would destroy the economy,” Biden said while speaking at the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 77 in Accokeek. “America is not a dead-beat nation,” he added.

The White House and Democrats are on the right side of public opinion. New Navigator Research polling found that 64 percent of voters believe it would be worse to default on the nation's debt than to raise the debt ceiling, while 36 percent say that raising the ceiling is worse than defaulting.

Biden was responding to the House GOP's debt ceiling “plan,” which ties raising the ceiling (i.e., averting a global meltdown) to major budget cuts. For months, Biden has urged House Republicans to pass a "clean" debt ceiling increase while refusing to link the two matters.

The heightened sense of urgency demonstrated by Biden, who isn't usually inclined to mix it up with political adversaries, is twofold. First, House Republicans are just dumb enough to play with fire, and Biden specifically recalls the fallout from the last time a White House and congressional Republicans played a game of chicken on raising the debt ceiling. It was 2011, Biden was vice president, and the nation came just close enough to defaulting that the U.S. credit rating was downgraded, markets plummeted, and U.S. taxpayers bore the burden of the country's increased borrowing costs.

Second, House Republicans are also just dumb enough to intentionally tank the economy in the name of austerity. Such a move could precipitate an epic global meltdown, and the White House simply cannot afford for voters to blame that on the president heading into his reelection.

Voters support raising the debt ceiling by a 10-point margin, 48 percent - 38 percent, with 14 percent saying they weren't sure. Those findings are in keeping with a PBS/NPR/Marist poll in February that found a 52 percent majority of voters supported raising the debt ceiling.

The notion that roughly half the nation supports a debt ceiling increase while fewer oppose it may seem less than reassuring, but that's more than twice as much support for raising the limit than in 2011, when the same PBS/NPR/Marist poll found that just 24 percent of voters favored a ceiling hike.

Another way of looking at it is that having been to this rodeo before, more voters drew similar conclusions to Biden: Quit messing around and just raise the damn ceiling already. In other words, Biden's message on the topic should be one that resonates with most voters.

But recent polling on the matter reveals one other lesson: People need to understand that failure to raise the debt ceiling will result in default. While people steeped in the brinkmanship inherently understand that failing to raise the ceiling will trigger a default, many voters apparently don't and are also hesitant to greenlight more government spending.

When CBS News asked respondents simply whether Congress should raise the debt ceiling, a narrow majority said no, with 46 percent favoring it while 54 percent opposed it.

However, when respondents were asked if Congress should raise the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on its current debt, fully 70 percent support increasing the ceiling.

Currently, the U.S. has already hit the ceiling on what it can borrow and the Treasury Department has implemented so-called "extraordinary measures" to avoid defaulting on our debt. But sometime in June those measures are expected to come up short, so the reckoning is fast approaching.

Right now, McCarthy is attempting to lure the White House to the table on spending cuts when he may not even have the 218 votes in his own caucus to pass his own debt limit bill. That's not a particularly strong starting point, especially when everyone knows that bill would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate even if McCarthy managed to finagle it through the House by some miracle.

Biden has spent months pressing House Republicans to decouple the debt ceiling increase from negotiations on spending.

"Take default off the table," Biden said on Wednesday.

As the deadline grows closer, Biden is also rightfully pinning the blame on House Republicans.

“Let’s be clear: If he fails, the American people will be devastated,” Biden said of McCarthy.

He's not wrong. The best outcome for everyone involved—particularly average Americans—would be for a deal to come together long before a potential default shakes the global financial markets.

But if, God forbid, it comes down to finger-pointing, the White House appears to be on solid ground with the public, and Biden isn't mincing words.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.

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