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Tipsheet

Is Hakeem Jeffries for Real With This Complaint on Debt Ceiling Negotiations?

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The June 1 default date continues to be fast-approaching, leaving less time for President Joe Biden--who just left for the G7 in Japan--and his fellow Democrats with even less time to come to their senses in the negotiations stage. This sense of priorities, or rather lack thereof, makes a complaint from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) all the more unbelievable.

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During a Wednesday morning appearance on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Jeffries complained that two weeks is not enough time to negotiate, despite how that crisis over timing is of the Democrats' own doing.

In response to co-host Andrew Ross Sorkin mentioning "the practicality of how you get there in the next two weeks," Jeffries pointed out that "the practicality is that we're not going to solve the fiscal health of the American people over the next ten years in two weeks, that's what Republicans are suggesting they'd like to do."

Jeffries went on to discuss what should have been negotiated not just weeks, but months before. "And what we're saying is that we should have a serious discussion about that, but every available tool to engage in deficit reduction, to build an economy, to continue economic growth should be part of that discussion. And if we can't do that in two weeks, then, of course, that's a conversation that should occur along the usual budget and appropriations track, while avoiding a default," he continued by mentioning.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had been looking to engage in negotiations with Biden since February, but had been continuously rebuffed, for over 100 days now. 

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A press release for Jeffries' office actually framed Democrats as the heroes, by claiming Jeffries "reiterated that while extreme MAGA Republicans attempt to hold our economy hostage, House Democrats remain committed to avoiding a catastrophic default on our debt and ensuring that America pays its bills."

The show's co-hosts did push back against Jeffries' term to describe his Republican colleagues as such. While the Democratic leader offered "I don't view my GOP colleagues--I certainly don't view the Speaker as a terrorist," he did take issue with co-host Joe Kernen pointing out that the MAGA Republicans trope was "not a good way to negotiate."

"That's not--Joe, let's not take us off track. What we're trying to do is to arrive at an agreement that avoids a default and sets us on a course to address the fiscal health of the United States of America in a responsible way, in the context of divided government," Jeffries tried to offer, speaking about a ship that likely sailed long ago, "where Joe Biden is the president and Democrats are in the majority in the Senate, and there is a closely divided House of Representatives."

It's no wonder that McCarthy had indicated after Tuesday's meeting with Biden and other congressional leaders that he wasn't exactly optimistic.  

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, whose insults have been even less productive than those from Jeffries, also went with the MAGA Republicans trope aboard Air Force One on Wednesday.

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A reporter had asked "doesn't it make the president look like he's caving to Republican demands" by cutting short his trip, but Jean-Pierre couldn't be bothered to give a response that was remotely close to an answer. 

"I mean, look, the Speaker--the Speaker put us in this position. Right?  Let’s not forget.  He put us in a position where he is taking the American economy hostage," she offered. 

After warning "we are looking at a situation where American could potentially default on their--on paying their bills," she tried to claim "I get the question," before going on to argue "but Speaker McCarthy and MAGA Republicans got us here."

It's worth reminding that House Republicans have been the only ones to pass a plan to raise the debt ceiling, which also looks to cut spending. Such a plan brings spending levels back to FY2022 levels, something top Democrats were all too happy to cheer at the time

As The Hill had highlighted earlier in the week, they also reported on Wednesday about growing calls from Democrats who would rather Biden make use of the 14th Amendment to avoid default. 

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Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) has so far been joined by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Ed Markey (D-MA) in circulating a letter to the president claiming he has the authority to use the 14th Amendment, a matter which is actually up for debate.

"I want the president to see that he has the support in the Senate to use the 14th Amendment," Merkley is quoted as saying. "He has support to say no to outrageous demands from the radical right."

As even Biden has acknowledged though, the matter would be litigated. Jeffries himself did not directly respond on "Squawk Box" as to whether he thinks Biden using the 14th Amendment is a good idea. 

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