CNBC’s Joe Kernen grilled Democratic Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse on Thursday over debt ceiling negotiations after the latter tried to blame Republicans for the impending default.
House Republicans passed a debt ceiling proposal that would raise the budget up $1.5 trillion by cutting approximately $130 billion in federal spending for fiscal year 2023. The White House has vowed to veto the legislation, instead calling on Republicans to agree to a clean debt ceiling raise with talks about budgetary concerns later. President Joe Biden met with Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy on Tuesday to discuss raising the debt ceiling, though no substantial progress has been made as Republicans insist there must be cuts.
Whitehouse argued McCarthy is “trying to avoid blame and responsibility” and is “insisting that default remain a threat on the table.”
“Senator … I think the American people, we kind of get tired of all the talking points. You’re calling it a ‘MAGA bill’ that’s a giveaway to the fossil fuel industry. But you’ve got 43 of your colleagues that happen to be in the other party, in the GOP, that have said that they’re not going to vote for that clean Senate bill, so you know you can’t pass it, so it’s disingenuous to say—”
“Actually, that’s not true either,” Whitehouse said. (RELATED: ‘We Do Have A Deficit Problem’: Former Obama Administration Official Dumps Cold Water On MSNBC)
“Then pass it,” Kernen pushed. “Can that bill pass right now? Can a clean debt bill pass in the Senate right now, Senator?”
“Not while the Speaker is holding the economy hostage with his default program.”
“Speaker’s in the House. He has nothing to do with the Senate,” Kernen shot back. “He’s got nothing to do with the Senate.”
“Yeah, but he –” Whitehouse said before Kernen interjected.
“Are they all MAGA? Is Mitt Romney MAGA? Is this helpful? Do you think the American people are well-served by this, Senator? We want to get this done.”
“I think the American people would be well-served — You tell me when you’re willing to have me speak,” Whitehouse began. “So, the American people will be well-served when Speaker McCarthy takes the debt limit threat off the table, stops threatening default and we go though the proper process of governance in America, which is through the relevant committees and in the sunlight of public disclosure, and have a conversation about reducing the deficit both with revenues and with spending reductions. Those are the ways we go about this in the United States of America.”
“So there’s no reason to go through the motions on Friday?” Kernen pressed. “You wouldn’t urge the White House or Senator Schumer to negotiate in any way with Speaker McCarthy, any type of spending restraint … there’s no middle ground on COVID relief, on permitting, there’s nothing possible other than a clean debt raise?”
“You say ‘McCarthy says it’s his way or the highway.’ You’re not saying that it’s your way or the highway, or the president isn’t saying the same thing? We just come back to this. We’re both pointing at the other, and we get closer and closer to default,” he continued.
Whitehouse then said Democrats are “willing” to negotiate a budget “through a proper, legitimate constitutional process of negotiation, through the budget and appropriations process in which everybody gets their say … not bringing the default hand grenade into the room.”