Elections have Consequences
Progressive Democrats should work hard to regain the majority in Congress if they don’t like the compromise debt-ceiling deal
In a letter sent to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Friday, May 26, Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, indicated that “Treasury will have insufficient resources to satisfy the government’s obligations if Congress has not raised or suspended the debt limit by June 5.” With only a few days left before a possible default, President Joe Biden and Speaker McCarthy reached a preliminary agreement on Saturday to raise the nation’s debt limit and implement spending cuts. Some progressive Democrats who opposed negotiations between the President and the Speaker criticized the deal’s provisions, particularly its work requirements for recipients of federal aid.
Despite controlling the White House and the two legislative branches of government, Democrats lost control of Congress by a margin of five seats in the 2022 midterm elections. Even in strongly Democratic New York, Republicans gained three House seats, including one in Long Island where George Santos, who has been accused of lying repeatedly, emerged as the winner. A more aggressive strategy could have helped Democrats retain seats in other states.
President Biden and Speaker Pelosi could have averted this crisis had they heeded the advice of Janet Yellen, who urged the Democrats to address the debt limit beyond the 2024 election during the lame-duck session when they still held control of Congress. In an interview with The New York Times, Yellen stated, “I am in favor of any way Congress can find to get it done.”
President Joe Biden promised not to let the US default on its debt and called on Congress to pass a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling. He also made it clear that he would not engage in negotiations with the Republicans regarding spending cuts as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling. On the other hand, the Republicans aimed to undermine all major policy achievements of the Democratic-controlled Congress over the past two years. The initial bill that was voted on in the House sought to revoke $72 billion out of the $80 billion allocated to the IRS.