- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 7, 2023

President Biden on Tuesday blamed former President Donald Trump for the nation’s skyrocketing national debt, deepening his row with Republicans just minutes after calling for more bipartisanship.

In his State of the Union remarks, Mr. Biden accused the GOP of applying a double standard in the ongoing debt-ceiling negotiations.

“Under the previous administration, America’s deficit went up four years in a row,” he said. “Because of those record deficits, no president added more to the national debt in any four years than my predecessor.”

“How did Congress respond to all that debt?” the president said. “They lifted the debt ceiling three times without preconditions or crisis. They paid America’s bills to prevent economic disaster for our country. Tonight, I’m asking this Congress to follow suit.”

Mr. Biden’s remarks, delivered nearly a week after his one-on-one meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, further fuel the clash over debt and spending. Republicans have demanded negotiation on spending before agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

Last month, the Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” to stave off default when the government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing capacity. Those emergency measures are expected to give the government enough breathing room to cover day-to-day expenses until the summer.

Mr. Biden initially balked at Mr. McCarthy’s demands for negotiations. He called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling “without conditions” and accused Republicans of using the full faith and credit of the nation as a bargaining chip in their quest to cut vital programs such as Social Security.

Mr. McCarthy said after meeting with Mr. Biden that he could “see where we can find common ground” on spending as he addressed reporters outside of the White House.

The next day, Mr. Biden promised to work with Mr. McCarthy in a pledge of bipartisanship at the annual National Prayer Breakfast.

“Let’s start treating each other with respect,” the president said. “That’s what Kevin and I are going to do. I think we’ve got to do it across the board.”

On Tuesday, however, Mr. Biden was met with jeers as he dug in on Republicans over the debt.

“Some of my Republican friends want to take the economy hostage unless I agree to their economic plans. All of you at home should know what their plans are,” he said. “Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset every five years.”

Mr. McCarthy has said on several occasions that Social Security and Medicare are off the table in the debt-reduction talks.

The president conceded that Republicans in Congress would not move to scrap social safety nets as part of the debt ceiling negotiations, after drawing a brief uproar from Republicans in attendance.

He added, “If anyone tries to cut Social Security, I will stop them. And if anyone tries to cut Medicare, I will stop them. I will not allow them to be taken away.”

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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