Kevin McCarthy
Rep. Kevin McCarthy

Recent public polling has shown that there is significant support from the public for legislation to raise the federal debt ceiling, while proposals similar to recent Republican legislation that would cut safety net spending are unpopular.

Congressional Republicans and President Joe Biden are currently debating how to increase the country’s debt ceiling, the amount the government is authorized to borrow to pay debt that it has already incurred. Past increases have been authorized by Congress under both Democratic and Republican presidents.

Biden has favored a “clean” bill, one that is unattached to other issues. Republicans, led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, have called for spending cuts in exchange for authorizing an increase.

A poll from Navigator Research conducted from April 20-24 found that 50 percent of respondents support raising the ceiling, while 36 percent are opposed (14 percent said they were “not sure”). The strongest support was among registered Democrats (68 percent), followed by independents (45 percent) and 30 percent of Republicans polled.

When asked to choose between proposals to address the federal deficit, most respondents (79 percent) said they preferred raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations and closing tax loopholes over making cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Seventy-seven percent said they were against cutting Medicaid, while 67 percent said they were against making it harder for Americans to qualify for the program.

A majority of respondents (54 percent) also opposed adding work requirements to be eligible for Medicaid.

The results from a CBS poll taken from April 12-14 found that 70 percent of respondents support raising the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on debts. Without being given the additional context that failing to raise the ceiling could trigger a default, 46 percent were in favor and 54 percent opposed. In CBS’ survey, most said they supported increases in Medicare and Medicaid spending (59 percent), along with an increase in funding of Social Security (63 percent).

But legislation that Republicans in the House of Representatives have passed does not reflect the policies those voters support.

On April 26, a slim House majority voted in favor of the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023. If the bill became law, it would cut funding of federal agencies, increase obstacles to low-income families who need to access safety net programs, end student loan debt forgiveness, and inhibit recently funded IRS efforts to pursue wealthy tax cheats.

“Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans are threatening to default on our debt in order to force cuts to programs that hardworking families rely on every single day,” the White House said in a tweet criticizing the bill.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made clear the bill had no chance at passage.

“These measures, and they’re truly extreme, have no place in a debate about avoiding default,” Schumer said in a March 26 speech in the Senate, according to reporting by Newsweek. “I urge Speaker McCarthy to stop wasting any more time on this DOA, dead on arrival, bill.”

Experts have warned that failure to raise the debt limit could trigger a massive blow to the U.S. and global economies, triggering a recession.

Reprinted with permission from American Independent.

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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.