Emmer on Debt Ceiling Fight: Democrats Will Use Media to Try to Convince Americans They ‘Hold the High Ground’

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Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty

House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) expects Republicans to craft “creative solutions” in the coming months to address the nation’s debt ceiling while President Joe Biden stands firmly against negotiating with the GOP on the matter.

Emmer spoke about his position on the looming fight during an interview with Breitbart News in his Capitol Hill office Wednesday, one day before the U.S. was expected to reach its statutory debt limit.

“I think our members are already working on solutions. I think we’ll be proactive,” Emmer said. “And, you know, I know the press loves the drama, but I just don’t think there’s going to be a lot of drama on this side. I think the House will lead. I think the House will put together something that makes sense.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) last week that the U.S. was expected to reach its $31.4 trillion debt limit on January 19 and that the Treasury Department would then resort to “extraordinary measures” to avoid defaulting on its debts. Yellen estimated the department could take such measures through roughly early June before the U.S. would run out of options.

On Thursday, Yellen confirmed to McCarthy that the U.S. had indeed hit its debt ceiling and that she had begun taking measures to stave off a default.

FILE - Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks at the Treasury Department in Washington, Jan. 10, 2023. Yellen will meet with her Chinese counterpart Vice Premier Liu He in Switzerland on Jan. 18, 2023 to discuss economic developments between the two nations. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks at the Treasury Department in Washington, January 10, 2023. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

House Republicans have pledged, as a result of conference negotiations during their prolonged speaker race fight, to offset raising the debt ceiling with substantial federal spending cuts, while the White House has vowed not to entertain giving Republicans any such concessions.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated in a press briefing this week, “This is something that should be done without conditions. We have been very, very clear about that. We are not going to be negotiating over the debt ceiling.”

The stalemate marks the early stages of a fight reminiscent of 2011 between the House GOP and President Barack Obama’s administration over government spending, which lasted until the two bodies agreed — after what appeared to be a period of heightened financial turmoil and anxiety — to temporarily suspend the debt limit.

Warnings at the time about grave repercussions of a default and Standard & Poor’s historic decision to downgrade the U.S. credit rating proved, as explained by Breitbart News’s John Carney, not to have lasting negative real-world impact.

Yellen in her correspondence to McCarthy nevertheless warned of “irreparable harm” to the U.S. economy if the country could not pay its bills, saying the “livelihood of all Americans” and “global financial stability” were at stake.

The Democrat-controlled Senate, the Republican-controlled House, and the White House must all be in agreement to be able to pass a law that addresses the debt limit, but Emmer said he deems most Senate Democrats and the Biden administration untrustworthy on the issue.

“That’s the other thing — is, you can’t believe a word that comes out of their mouth at this point. They’re going to try and do as little as possible for as long as possible, and they’re going to try to use the press to convince the rest of the country that they’re the ones that actually hold the high ground,” Emmer said.

Asked if he is concerned that a handful of centrist Republicans could eventually succumb to pressure over the actual or purported risks of a default and side with Democrats on the matter, effectively handing Democrats a debt ceiling increase or suspension without Republicans’ desired spending offsets, Emmer said no.

“Our team showed you last week that it doesn’t matter how you want to characterize one of our members and his or her political perspective. … Every voice matters in this conference,” he said.

The majority whip said he looks forward to seeing some members, such as Budget Committee chair Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) or RSC chair Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK) or some group of “fiscal Hawks,” emerge as leaders for Republicans as they come up with “some very creative solutions” to modifying spending in the coming months.

“And by the way, even the more moderate members are looking at this stuff, in terms of you cannot continue the spending,” Emmer said.

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