President Joe Biden made the first move Thursday in a high-stakes contest over the federal budget. Now, it’s the Republicans’ turn.
Biden’s $6.9 trillion budget came as more than just a declaration of spending priorities—it’s a challenge to Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, who must now counter with their own proposal that contrasts with Biden’s plan for new social programs for families and deficit reductions funded by large tax increases for the wealthy.
In a speech in Philadelphia following the release of his budget Thursday afternoon, Biden threw down the gauntlet, repeatedly prodding Republicans led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to commit to a budget plan of their own.
“I’m ready to meet with the Speaker anytime—tomorrow, if he has his budget,” Biden said. “Lay it down. Tell me what you want to do. I’ll show you what I want to do. See what we can agree on. What we don’t.”
Opposition leaders declared Biden’s budget, released Thursday, dead on arrival with no chance of passing intact, as widely expected.
“President Biden just delivered his budget to Congress, and it is completely unserious,”McCarthy posted on Twitter Thursday. “He proposes trillions in new taxes that you and your family will pay directly or through higher costs.”
The debate is especially consequential because it’s happening against the backdrop of a looming debt ceiling crisis threatening the entire economy.
The government blew past its congressionally-set borrowing limit in January and will run out of money some time this summer, potentially setting off a financial meltdown and leading to millions of jobs lost if it’s not resolved, economists have warned. Republicans have said they won’t raise or suspend the debt ceiling to avert the crisis unless Democrats agree to spending cuts.
The power to write the budget ultimately lies with Congress, where Democrats control the Senate and Republicans the House, with Biden wielding veto power. The House budget proposal, when it comes, will clarify exactly how far apart the two sides are in their spending and taxation plans. So far, the White House has been just as dismissive of Republican proposals as they have been of Biden’s, suggesting they are far from a compromise.
On Friday, the House Freedom Caucus, a group of ultraconservative lawmakers, released a budget outline calling for freezing the budget at 2022 levels, allowing for 1% yearly growth and eliminating the IRS expansion, clean energy spending from the Inflation Reduction Act, and Biden’s embattled student loan forgiveness plan. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the plan a “gut-punch to the American middle class” in a statement.