Discover more from Letters from an American
May 9, 2023 (Tuesday)
President Biden spoke to reporters today after his meeting with House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) about raising the debt ceiling. “I just finished, I thought, a productive meeting with the congressional leadership about the path forward to make sure America does not default—I emphasize does not default on its debt for the first time in history,” he began. “And I’m pleased but not surprised to hear [the] Republican minority leader of the United States Senate saying…at our meeting that the United States is not going to default. It never has, and it never will. And he’s absolutely correct.” The teams will continue to meet before the principals reconvene on Friday.
Biden went on to lay out the differences between his plan and that of the Republicans under McCarthy. He began by warning that a default would create a “significant recession,” devastating retirement accounts and increasing the cost of borrowing. He quoted Moody’s Analytics that nearly 8 million Americans would lose their jobs and added that our international reputation would be ruined.
“Default is not an option,” he repeated. “America is not a deadbeat nation. We pay our bills.” Congress avoided default three times under Trump “without once—not one time—creating a crisis, rattling the markets, or undermining the unshakable trust the world has in America’s commitment to paying its bills.” Biden noted that Trump drove the debt up significantly and that in his own first two years he had reduced the debt by an unprecedented $1.7 trillion.
He reiterated that he is happy to negotiate over the budget, which entails future spending, but not over raising the debt ceiling, which enables the government to pay for bills already incurred.
Then Biden laid out the differences between his budget proposal and the newly released guidelines offered by the House Republicans. He noted that his budget has $3 trillion in cuts that the House Republicans oppose because they end benefits for corporations and the wealthy. His budget saves the country $200 billion by permitting Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, and cuts $30 billion in tax subsidies for oil companies—which, he noted, made $200 billion in profits last year.
His budget also funds the Internal Revenue Service to enable it to stop tax cheats; the Congressional Budget Office says that will raise $200 billion. Biden also wants to increase the number of inspectors general in the government to watch how money is spent, citing estimates that each dollar spent on inspectors general saves $10 in wasteful spending. The Republican plan would cut all of these measures, making suspect their claim that they want to address the deficit.
He added that he wants the wealthiest Americans and corporations to “start to pay some of their fair share.”
In contrast, the House Republicans have called for cuts, without specifying where they would come from. Biden noted that the general cut McCarthy claims to support will hurt Americans badly, and the math simply doesn’t work on his insistence that he won’t cut popular programs. He also pointed out that McCarthy is disingenuous when he says Biden refused to meet with him for 97 days. Biden reminded listeners that he told McCarthy they could meet when McCarthy came up with a plan. Five days after he did so, Biden invited him to a meeting.
In questions from the press, Biden noted that lawmakers, including Republican lawmakers, don’t want the government to default on its obligations. He also suggested he is considering invoking the Fourteenth Amendment, which declares the national debt inviolable, but worries that invoking it to solve this manufactured crisis will involve lengthy litigation. Finally, after reminding a reporter that McCarthy has not actually offered a specific plan but rather made a general call for cuts without saying where, he offered the favorable sign that all the lawmakers “agreed that…defaulting on the debt is off the table.”
Also today, a jury in New York reached a decision in the civil case brought against former president Donald Trump for rape, sexual abuse, and defamation. After just three hours of deliberations, the jury found him not liable for rape, but liable for sexual assault and defamation. It awarded accuser E. Jean Carroll $5 million in damages.
It is a dramatic vindication of Carroll, and it complicates Trump’s run for the presidency in the 2024 election. In his deposition he reaffirmed his words in the Access Hollywood tape about how stars can sexually assault women. While his base supporters will not care about this verdict, lots of women will, and it raises the issue of the many other women who have accused him of assault. In Just Security, Ryan Goodman and Norman L. Eisen reminded readers that “Americans generally consider sexual assault incompatible with serving in elected office or positions of public trust.”
Also, strikingly, at the end of the trial, U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan advised the jurors not to identify themselves—“not now and not for a long time”—out of concerns for their safety. National security analyst Juliette Kayyem reported the judge’s warning and noted that “Trump’s strongest legacy will always be violence as an extension of our democratic processes.” Legal analyst Joyce White Vance added, “It’s a remarkable thing when jurors have to be cautioned that revealing their identities could put them at risk...when the defendant was the former president of the United States.”
Should Trump get the Republican nomination—and right now he is the frontrunner—the Republican Party will have nominated for the presidency a man a jury found liable for sexual assault and defamation, and against whose followers a judge had to warn a jury to take precautions.
It’s not a great look.
Also today, Mark Morales, Evan Perez, and Gregory Krieg of CNN reported that federal prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Representative George Santos (R-NY), famous for the lies he told in his 2022 campaign for election. The charges are sealed, but we should learn more soon: Santos is expected in court as soon as tomorrow.
His troubles complicate matters for McCarthy, who badly needs Santos’s vote to hold his slim majority. If Santos has to resign, it seems likely that angry voters in Santos’s district will turn back to a Democratic representative. There is nothing in the House rules that prevent Santos from participating in debates and votes while under indictment. Indeed, he could continue to serve even after a conviction, but McCarthy told the CNN reporters that anyone found guilty of a crime should resign.