Durbin Slams Speaker Mccarthy, House Republicans For Inadequate Solutions To Address The Debt Ceiling

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin scolds conservative House leadership for entertaining extreme 30 percent national sales tax legislation and for proposing dangerous cuts to federal programs as a means to address the debt ceiling

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today took to the Senate floor to slam Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Republicans for using the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip at the expense of federal programs that Americans rely on. In his remarks, Durbin explained that Republicans’ lackluster solutions to the budget deficit will only harm constituents by cutting social security or slashing medical research funding.  

“To…finally become Speaker, Kevin McCarthy made all kinds of commitments to the MAGA extremists in his Republican party.  One of the promises he made to the hard-right holdouts in order to become Speaker was that House Republicans will use their razor-thin majority in the House to try to freeze federal spending in Fiscal Year 2024 to Fiscal Year 2022 levels… This means cutting $130 billion out of the federal budget that Congress passed just last month,” Durbin began.  “How are they going to do it?... Speaker McCarthy won’t say; neither will the House Republicans.” 

“MAGA Republicans are threatening to use the creditworthiness of the United States as a bargaining chip in a political debate here on Capitol Hill... They are talking about cuts in some of the most important programs in our budget.  What are those programs?  Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits.  The list goes on, and it gets down to the heart of this economy.  It gets down to whether or not the vast majorities of retirees in the United States of America will have enough money to get by,” Durbin said.

As Durbin went on to note, refusing to raise the debt ceiling for the first time in American history would do catastrophic damage to the economy, including increasing the national debt by $850 billion.  Millions of Americans could lose their jobs from a potential recession while workers nearing retirement could see huge losses in their 401(k) savings.  A new 30-year mortgage could cost an additional $130,000. 

Durbin reminded his colleagues that one-quarter of the entire national debt, $8 trillion worth of debt, was a result of the Trump Administration.  Notably, Republican outcries about budget cuts and deficits were absent during the first two years of the Trump Administration despite a Republican-controlled Congress.  Durbin notes that Republicans have altered their opinion on addressing the national debt to conveniently fit the narrative of the day. 

“One-fourth of the entire debt of the United States, in its 230 years in existence, was accumulated in those four years [during the Trump Administration].  Of course, there was money spent on the COVID crisis, and I understand that.  But there was also a $2 trillion tax cut under President Donald Trump.  Who got the tax cut?  Most of it went to the wealthiest people in America and the biggest corporations.  It’s the tried and true Republican approach,” Durbin said.  “The last time the U.S. had a balanced federal budget, incidentally, was it under a Republican president?  No, it was a Democrat, Bill Clinton.  The Fiscal Year 2001 federal budget had a $128 billion surplus.  Remember what Republicans’ fear about the deficit was back then?... Republicans claimed that paying down the national debt too quickly would hurt the economy,” Durbin said.

“Instead of using the Fiscal Year 2001 surplus as a down payment on the national debt, Republicans passed a huge tax cut that, in those days, overwhelmingly benefitted rich people and powerful corporations… Seven years later, the last budget George W. Bush sent to Congress contained a $1.4 trillion deficit.  Same thing happened when Ronald Reagan was President.  Republicans passed huge tax cuts to the wealthy, and promised that they would pay for themselves… instead they produced the biggest budget deficits America had ever seen,” Durbin continued.

In contrast, Durbin explained that with a Democratic majority and President Biden in the White House, the federal budget deficit fell by $1.4 trillion, the largest one-year drop in American history.  Democrats came together to address a number of issues impacting everyday Americans, including health care costs, while reducing the deficit. 

“Democrats passed the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce the cost of health care, prescription drugs, and energy for America’s families, and to strengthen our nation’s energy independence with safe, new energy solutions.  The Inflation Reduction Act also cuts the federal deficit by more than $300 billion.  We’re not ignoring the problem.  We’re trying to address it seriously.  That’s the smart way to reduce the deficit – cut where you can, invest where you must, and make sure it’s fair for middle-class and lower-income families,” Durbin said.  

Further demonstrating Republicans’ hypocritical stance on fiscal responsibility, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has also relied on backdoor deals, at the expense of American families, to earn him votes for his position as Speaker of the House.  Speaker McCarthy reportedly appealed to hard-right House Republicans by agreeing to vote on legislation that would create a new, 30 percent national sales tax.  If enacted, a 30 percent national sales tax would devastate middle-class families, who would see their costs increase dramatically on necessities from gas to groceries.

“There’s an actual proposal to create a federal, that’s national, sales tax of 30 percent. A 30 percent sales tax. So if that loaf of bread costs $5 at the grocery store, and in Springfield some of them do, instead of paying $5, you’ll pay $6.50.  Did you already think prices were already going up for food in the grocery store?  Tack on 30 percent and see how it feels,” said Durbin.  

“The problem is who will pay it.  Do you think the richest people in the world give a toot about grocery bills?  They don’t.  But folks who are struggling paycheck to paycheck, trying to feed hungry kids do.  They can tell you week to week what’s going on in the grocery store, and it’s not very encouraging,” said Durbin.

Durbin concluded by calling on House Republicans to develop a viable alternative to their hardline suggestions that would cause American families severe economic distress or defund the government programs that Americans rely on.

“Speaker McCarthy is meeting with President Biden tomorrow for the first time since he became Speaker.  He needs to show up not just with platitudes, but with a plan, in writing, as to what the Republicans want to put on the table.  What is the Republican plan?  Are they going to cut Social Security and Medicare?... Are Republicans planning to slash money for education?  Health care?  Veterans?  Transportation?  Clean water?... Are we going to cut medical research, Mr. Speaker?” Durbin said.

“Speaker McCarthy, my ask is very simple – put your plan on the table,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.