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President Biden hailed a bipartisan deal that raised the debt ceiling and averted a calamitous default in a rare speech from the Oval Office on Friday.
He pointed out how close the economy was to being thrown into a recession. He said millions of Americans would have lost their jobs.
“There were extreme voices threatening to put America, for the first time in 247 years of history, in default on our national debt,” the president said. “Nothing. Nothing would have been more irresponsible. Nothing would have been more catastrophic.”
The nearly 15-minute speech served as the president’s speaking turn after the Senate passed legislation he negotiated with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the debt ceiling for two years and reduce federal spending.
“Nobody got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed,” he said.
In what seemed like a nod to one of those key re-election arguments, Biden pointed to the kind of stable leadership he says he can continue to provide compared to some of the partisan fights led by more Republicans. radicals, including leading Republican candidates for president.
“No matter how tough our politics get, we have to see each other not as adversaries, but as fellow Americans,” Biden said. “Treat one another with dignity and respect. Unite as Americans to stop yelling. Turn down the heat. Work together to pursue progress, deliver prosperity, and deliver on America’s Promise for All .”
Both sides claim victory, with detractors on both sides
Biden listed all of his administrative priorities that he was protected under the deal, including preserving Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ health care and technology investments.
But Republicans also claimed victory.
The compromise cuts federal spending by $1.5 trillion over a decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. It also imposes stricter work requirements for food stamps that the Biden administration has opposed. It is recovering money for the IRS and about $27 billion in funding for federal agencies meant to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Some far-right Republicans opposed the deal, arguing it did not reduce spending enough, while some far-left Democrats said increased work demands could lead to more hunger.
But in the end, a majority of Republicans and Democrats came together to pass the legislation.
Months of partisan rancor end just before deadline
The passage of the bipartisan bill comes days before Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the government would start running out of money to pay its bills.
It also ends months of tensions in Washington after Republicans refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Biden and Democrats impose more restrictions on federal spending.
Biden even considered invoking the Constitution’s 14th Amendment to continue paying down the national debt — but ultimately determined there wasn’t enough time before an impending deadline to use the untested strategy.
In his Friday night speech, Biden singled out McCarthy, who he said was respectful and direct in his negotiations.
“Both parties acted in good faith,” he said. “Both parties have kept their word.”
Biden said he would sign the bill on Saturday.