McCarthy Is the Adult in the Room on Debt Ceiling Negotiations

by Rep. French Hill
Real Clear Politics
May 9, 2023

Speaker Kevin McCarthy meets with President Joe Biden on Tuesday to advance discussions on terms for increasing the federal government’s debt limit.

After the last meeting to discuss the debt limit on Feb. 1, the White House stated that “the President and the Speaker agreed to continue the conversation.” Now, nearly 100 days later and less than four weeks before the most recently forecasted D (for default) Day, the President will finally keep his word.

Unfortunately, the only word he appears ready to keep repeating is “NO!” No plan. Not a penny in spending cuts, not even to excess COVID-19 relief funds. No negotiations, until this week – maybe.

With Democrats on tilt and a President stuck on “No,” how can President Biden avoid bumbling into default? By working with Speaker McCarthy.

Consider that in just over four months as speaker, with 38 legislative days in Washington, the House has passed 71 bills, including the Limit, Save, Grow Act which increases the debt limit, reduces future debt needs, slows inflation, and spurs economic growth.

On the other hand, the Senate, under Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer’s leadership, has passed only 22 bills in 44 legislative days, excluding commemorative resolutions, and has shown as little interest as President Biden in passing a debt ceiling bill that commits to responsible spending.

The Republican-led House is proving to be the adult in D.C. It is the only chamber in the 118th Congress that is getting things done, thanks to its 55th speaker, California Republican Kevin McCarthy, and his leadership team.

Talking heads in Washington underestimate Speaker McCarthy at their own peril. He is no stranger to pulling off what many thought was impossible, after going 15 rounds and enduring hours of cable news skepticism before being elected speaker. What are the secrets to his success?

Speaker McCarthy is a resilient, relentless, and resourceful man. He is comfortable managing risk and works respectfully and reasonably with members on both sides of the aisle in a relaxed, friendly manner.  

I have personally understood this about Speaker McCarthy for years, having seen his effective leadership transformed into action here in Congress. But most of America first learned about his leadership qualities in January when Speaker McCarthy’s resolve and resilience were tested publicly, and his ability to deal respectfully with opponents played out live on national TV before he secured the speakership.

What viewers at home didn’t see was the way he worked off the floor and away from the cameras, explaining House rules and pragmatically focusing on what actually mattered under the circumstances.

Nor does the public see the respectful manner in which he works with colleagues, listening and addressing concerns with a focus on getting something done.

In a House narrowly divided between Republicans and Democrats, Speaker McCarthy and his leadership team smartly operate under the golden rule: treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Listen – respect different perspectives and personalities. Make points with reason, not hyperbole or ridicule.

The White House seems to believe it can make the speaker blink, divide Republicans, and continue to govern unilaterally. President Biden seems to believe he can avoid dealing with a unified House majority simply by labeling their bill “Extreme MAGA!”

Federal spending increased 40% from $4.45 trillion in 2019 to $6.21 trillion in 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Voters spoke loudly and clearly with their thoughts on rampant spending in 2022 when they elected a House Republican majority, putting an end to Democrats’ reckless one-party rule in Washington.

So now it’s time for President Biden and Democrats to listen to the message voters sent them and come to the table ready to work with Speaker McCarthy to solve our nation’s spending addiction.

After Tuesday’s meeting that caps weeks of Democrat threats and chest beating, we are likely to see Speaker McCarthy’s calm resolve at the microphones outside the White House. He will point out that President Biden led successful debt limit negotiations in 2011, stating that “you can’t govern” without negotiating. He will seek to coax the President out of his “NO!” bunker by highlighting the practical benefits of the Limit, Save, Grow Act. He will also likely express respect for the President, despite frustration with Democrats’ inflexibility, personal attacks, and scare tactics.

What happens next?

In a few weeks (or months, if the President foolishly believes he will benefit politically from unsettling the economy further), the debt ceiling will be increased, spending will be moderated, inflation will start to be addressed, and President Biden’s extreme anti-growth policies will be curtailed.

In a world gone crazy, I would bet on the resilient, calm guy from California relentlessly pursuing popular goals in a reasonable, responsible manner.

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