Biden Signs Debt Ceiling Bill 06/04 09:53
With just two days to spare, President Joe Biden signed legislation on
Saturday that lifts the nation's debt ceiling, averting an unprecedented
default on the federal government's debt.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- With just two days to spare, President Joe Biden signed
legislation on Saturday that lifts the nation's debt ceiling, averting an
unprecedented default on the federal government's debt.
It was a decidedly low-key denouement to a monthslong drama that unnerved
financial markets at home and abroad and caused anxious retirees and social
service organizations to make contingency plans in case the country was unable
to pay all its bills.
Instead of holding a public ceremony with lawmakers from both parties --
showcasing the bipartisanship that Biden had cited in an Oval Office address on
Friday evening -- the president signed the legislation in private in a
reflection of the tight deadline facing the nation's leaders.
The Treasury Department had warned that the country would start running
short of cash on Monday, which would have sent shockwaves through the U.S. and
The White House released a picture of the president signing the legislation
at the Resolute Desk. In a brief statement, Biden thanked Democratic and
Republican congressional leaders for their partnership, a cordial message that
contrasted with the rancor that initially characterized the debt debate.
"No matter how tough our politics gets, we need to see each not as
adversaries, but as fellow Americans," Biden said in a video message released
after the signing. He said it was important to "stop shouting, lower the
temperature, and work together to pursue progress, secure prosperity and keep
the promise of America for everybody."
The standoff began when Republicans refused to raise the country's borrowing
limit unless Democrats agreed to cut spending. Eventually, the White House
began weeks of intense negotiations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy,
R-Calif., to reach a deal.
The final agreement, passed by the House on Wednesday and the Senate on
Thursday, suspends the debt limit until 2025 -- after the next presidential
election -- and restricts government spending. It gives lawmakers budget
targets for the next two years in hopes of assuring fiscal stability as the
political season heats up.
Raising the nation's debt limit, now at $31.4 trillion, will ensure that the
government can borrow to pay debts already incurred.
After Congress passed the legislation, Biden used the occasion to deliver
his first speech from the Oval Office as president on Friday.
"No one got everything they wanted but the American people got what they
needed," he said, highlighting the "compromise and consensus" in the deal. "We
averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse."
Biden touted the achievements of his first term as he runs for reelection,
including support for high-tech manufacturing, infrastructure investments and
financial incentives for fighting climate change. He also highlighted ways he
blunted Republican efforts to roll back his agenda and achieve deeper cuts.
"We're cutting spending and bringing deficits down at the same time," Biden
said. "We're protecting important priorities from Social Security to Medicare
to Medicaid to veterans to our transformational investments in infrastructure
and clean energy."
Biden's remarks were the most detailed comments from the Democratic
president on the compromise he and his staff negotiated. He largely remained
quiet publicly during the high-stakes talks, a decision that frustrated some
members of his party but was intended to give space for both sides to reach a
deal and for lawmakers to vote it to his desk.
Biden praised McCarthy and his negotiators for operating in good faith, and
all congressional leaders for ensuring swift passage of the legislation. "They
acted responsibly, and put the good of the country ahead of politics," he said.
In addition to restrictions on spending, the 99-page bill changes some
policies, including imposing new work requirements for older Americans
receiving food aid and greenlighting an Appalachian natural gas pipeline that
many Democrats oppose. Some environmental rules were modified to help
streamline approvals for infrastructure and energy projects -- a move long
sought by moderates in Congress.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the legislation could actually
expand total eligibility for federal food assistance, with the elimination of
work requirements for veterans, homeless people and young people leaving foster
The legislation also bolsters funds for defense and veterans, cuts back some
new money for the Internal Revenue Service and rejects Biden's call to roll
back Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and the wealthy to help cover the
nation's deficits. But the White House said the IRS' plans to step up
enforcement of tax laws for high-income earners and corporations would continue.
The agreement imposes an automatic overall 1% cut to spending programs if
Congress fails to approve its annual spending bills -- a measure designed to
pressure lawmakers of both parties to reach consensus before the end of the
fiscal year in September.
In both chambers, more Democrats backed the legislation than Republicans,
but both parties were critical to its passage. In the Senate the tally was
63-36 including 46 Democrats and independents and 17 Republicans in favor, 31
Republicans along with four Democrats and one independent who caucuses with the
The vote in the House was 314-117.