Biden hosts second White House meeting, GOP draws red line


US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the federal government’s debt limit during a visit to SUNY Westchester Community College Valhalla in Valhalla, New York on May 10, 2023.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

WASHINGTON — As President Joe Biden welcomes congressional leaders to the White House for a much-anticipated meeting on the debt ceiling on Tuesday, tougher work requirements for social safety net programs are emerging as a potential area for compromise.

The White House also said Tuesday it would cancel the second leg of the president’s upcoming international trip, given the delicate state of debt ceiling negotiations.

Biden is currently scheduled to leave for Japan on Wednesday, where he will attend the G-7 leaders’ summit. He will now return to the United States on Sunday immediately after the meeting ends and will not make scheduled visits to Papua New Guinea and Australia, a source familiar with Biden’s trip planning told NBC News.

His return will set a critical stage in efforts to avoid a first-ever default on US debt and prevent major economic damage.

Work restrictions for social programs are a key demand of House Republicans, who included them in a partisan debt limit bill passed by the House last month.

“The public wants it,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said Tuesday, citing a recent ballot initiative in Wisconsin. “Both sides want it, the idea that [Democrats] wanting to fault us because they won’t work with us on this is ridiculous to me.”

But they’re also a red line for some progressive Democrats, a fact that could cloud the voting calculations of any debt-limiting deal that might pass the House.

Raising the current work requirements for federal aid programs is “a failure for me,” Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told MSNBC.

“It’s just cruel, especially as we see the economy slowing down,” Khanna said. “I hope the president sticks to what he said, that we pay our debts, and then we can negotiate on the budget.”

But Biden and the White House have signaled in recent days that the demands could be on the table, as Congress races to reach an agreement to raise or suspend the debt limit in time to avoid the economic fallout from a possible default on the payment of the American debt which could occur as from the first week of June.

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Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were meeting with McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky.

Over the weekend, Biden responded to a question about work requirements by pointing to his own Senate record for voting for social work requirements in the 1990s.

“I voted for tougher aid programs, that’s now in law, but Medicaid is a different story,” Biden said Sunday in Rehoboth, Del. “And so I’m waiting to find out what their exact proposal is.”

A Republican bill passed last month included tougher work requirements not only for Medicaid, but also for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, funds, as well as the assistance program food stamps. additional nutrition.

The White House reiterated on Tuesday that Biden would reject at least some of the proposed work demands.

Biden “will not accept proposals that will take away people’s health coverage,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. She did not say, however, that he would not accept changes to food stamps or temporary assistance programs.

This is a developing story, please check for updates.

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