GOP Rep. says “math tells us that there is a little bit of wiggle room” on debt default date


Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick suggested Sunday that there is some flexibility on the June 1 deadline for lawmakers to address the debt ceiling — while his Democratic colleague Rep. Josh Gottheimer said even if that isn’t a hard deadline, “we can’t continue to play chicken-with the full faith and credit of the United States of America.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday that he and President Joe Biden had a “productive” call, and they will meet at the White House on Monday. The pair’s call comes after Mr. Biden said at the G-7 summit that Republican leaders need to “move their extreme positions” to achieve bipartisan consensus and characterized previous proposals as “unacceptable.” 

Tense negotiations stalled last week to raise the country’s borrowing limit and avoid a default on federal debt as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. likely will not be able to pay its bills after June 1. 

Although Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer agreed during a joint interview on “Face the Nation” Sunday that negotiations should proceed with the upcoming June 1 target date in mind, the congressman from Pennsylvania also said there is likely “a little bit of wiggle room” on the timeline to reach a finalized deal.

“We should assume the date is June 1, but I think the math tells us that there is a little bit of wiggle room,” Fitzpatrick said. Still, he noted that the looming deadline in and of itself is not the only cause for swift action from Congress, referencing the 2011 debt ceiling crisis and its impact on the U.S. economy.

“If you go back to 2011, about nine days before the X date was when our credit rating got downgraded and that caused the markets to spiral,” Fitzpatrick said. “So, it’s not just the X date. It’s the risk of the downgrade that we’ve got to worry about, which is why it’s incredibly time sensitive. There’s no question about it. The conversations can’t come soon enough.”

Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer on “Face the Nation” on May 21, 2023. 

CBS News

Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer are co-chairs of the House problem solvers caucus, which in April introduced a proposed framework for the government to manage the country’s financial deficit without needing to default on its debt. Both leaders said on “Face the Nation” that they believe the ongoing and increasingly tense negotiations between White House representatives and congressional Republicans will end on common ground.

“I do believe that the president and the Speaker legitimately respect each other,” said Fitzpatrick. “I believe they legitimately do want to come to a conclusion here. And I think it’s important that they physically be in the same room together to make that happen.”

“This is going to take time. We knew it was going to take time,” Gottheimer added. “But you’ve heard both the Speaker and the president still remain optimistic that they’re going to figure this out. I do believe that they will.”

Earlier Sunday, Mr. Biden sharply criticized congressional Republicans’ latest proposal to address the debt ceiling.

Speaking at a news conference in Hiroshima, Japan, where he attended this year’s G-7 summit, Mr. Biden acknowledged the approaching deadline for Congress and the White House to reach a deal. Echoing the debate that gave rise to the debt ceiling crisis in 2011, Republicans’ push for limited government spending in response to the deficit led to an apparent impasse last week. 

“I’ve done my part,” Mr. Biden said on Sunday. “We put forward a proposal to cut spending by more than a trillion dollars on top of the nearly $3 trillion in deficit reduction that I previously proposed, through the combination of spending cuts and new revenues.”

“Now it’s time for the other side to move their extreme positions because much of what they’ve already proposed is simply quite frankly, unacceptable,” the president continued. “And so let me be clear, I’m not going to agree to a deal that protects, for example, a $30 billion tax break for the oil industry, which made $200 billion last year.”

Democratic Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Minority Leader, posted a tweet around the time Biden delivered his latest remarks. Jeffries condemned congressional Republicans for failing to engage in scheduled negotiations with the Biden administration last week, despite the deadline to raise the country’s debt ceiling and the threat of default.

“House Republicans walked away from a meeting with the Biden administration,” Jeffries wrote. “They returned hours later with a ransom note that’s nothing more than a partisan right-wing wish list. The MAGA extremists are recklessly driving the nation toward a dangerous default. Get serious.”

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