The dramatic fight to secure the U.S. House speakership for California’s Rep. Kevin McCarthy is far from the final conflict that will face the newly sworn in Congress, according to its Democratic minority whip.
“When they talk about process, that is a smoke screen,” U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark, told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday. “They’ve already put this out there. This is their written agenda that they had put forward during the midterms: that they are going to use the debt ceiling as leverage to take American seniors hostage. This is their plan.”
The congresswoman was speaking to Tapper about the many concessions McCarthy reportedly made to secure the 218 voters required to replace outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at the podium.
Among them, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, a Texas Republican and member of the so-called far-right Freedom Caucus told Tapper, was a promise to not raise the debt ceiling without first coming up with a way to reduce spending.
According to Roy, his party has no intention of touching “the benefits” going to those on Medicare or Social Security, “but we all have to be honest about sitting at the table and figuring out how we’re going to make those work and how we’re to deal with defense spending and how we’re going to deal with non-defense spending.”
Clark said Republicans have been telling a different story for months: that Medicare and Social Security are very much at risk under the leadership of McCarthy and considering the arrangements he had to make in order to hold the speaker’s gavel.
“They voted to raise the debt ceiling three times under the Trump administration. This is all about forcing us to make cuts to Social Security where the hard earned earnings of Americans reside and Medicare so that they can, you know, enact that in the middle of a crisis,” she said.
“That is taking our seniors hostage, we have to be clear about this,” she continued. “All the talk about process, and amendments and germaneness, that is cover for what they really want to do and which is to dismantle the equities of our economy and to make sure that their billionaire buddies continue to thrive at the expense of hardworking families.”
Concerns over the future of Social Security and Medicare seemed to be in the forefront of President Joe Biden’s mind this week as well. In a Saturday release congratulating McCarthy on his successful election to the speakership, Biden noted that the American people expect the government to actually get some work done and that the economy has been improving.
“It’s imperative that we continue that economic progress, not set it back. It is imperative that we protect Social Security and Medicare, not slash them. It is imperative that we defend our national security, not defund it. These are some of the choices before us,” Biden said.
The debt ceiling must be raised after July 1 if the federal government is going to meet its financial obligations. It will need to fund federal agencies and programs as of October 1.
A similar fight in 2011 resulted in a reduction in the country’s credit rating by Standard & Poor, the first ever such downgrade, despite the fact former President Barack Obama managed to end the stalemate by agreeing to a $2 trillion deficit reduction over 10 years.
Current projections show the debt will rise by at about $1 trillion per year for the next 10 years. The country’s debt currently totals over $31 trillion.