President Biden hailed a congressional bill to resolve the U.S. debt crisis and avert a disastrous economic default as evidence of his ability to compromise and proof that bipartisan solutions can still be found in an increasingly divided Washington.
In his first-ever Oval Office address, the president on Friday night stressed the deal’s bipartisan nature. The votes in the House and Senate showed broad support from Democrats and Republicans.
“No one got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed. We averted an economic crisis and an economic collapse,” Mr. Biden said.
But even as he praised the bipartisan agreement, the president said he has “much more to do,” including raising taxes by closing loopholes, moves opposed by the GOP.
“Republicans may not like it, but I’m going to make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share.” Mr. Biden told Americans. “I’m going to be coming back, and with your help, I’m going to win.”
The legislation, which suspends the debt ceiling for two years and cuts back slightly on spending, cleared the Senate on Thursday after it was overwhelmingly passed in the House earlier this week.
Mr. Biden is expected to sign the bill on Saturday, narrowly averting the economic chaos caused by the first-ever default on the nation’s debt. Monday is the so-called X-date, the day when Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen predicted the government would run out of cash to pay some of its bills.
The compromise was reached after weeks of lengthy negotiations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.
“I was told the days of bipartisanship were over and Democrats and Republicans no longer worked together, but I refused to believe that because America could never give into that way of thinking,” Mr. Biden said.
Mr. Biden said he hopes the debt deal will lower the temperature in Washington so Democrats and Republicans can work together to pursue progress.
“Without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury and we can never become that country,” he said.
While some Democrats bristled over provisions that increased military spending and Republicans griped that it should have slashed more government spending, Mr. Biden assured the nation the compromise was well worth it.
Democrats were frustrated by a provision in the bill that would expedite the approval of the Mountain Valley natural gas pipeline in West Virginia and Virginia. Republican presidential candidates, including former president Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, blasted the bill.
Mr. Biden said the deal shows that both parties can come together for bipartisan accomplishments in a highly-polarized political climate. He praised Mr. McCarthy, saying the Republican negotiated in good faith and kept his word.
The president said the deal is evidence that he can reach across the aisle and get things done. He pointed to over 350 bipartisan bills that he’s reached across the aisle to achieve, including laws that bolster the nation’s infrastructure, increase funding for computer chip manufacturing and address gun violence.
The debt bill comes at a time when both chambers of Congress are divided, but each party clinging to razor-thin majorities.
The president also outlined the economic calamity that would have occurred if the nation was unable to pay all of its bills, including Social Security, Medicaid, or veterans benefits.
“The stakes could not have been higher,” he said, adding that the American economy and global economy were at risk of collapsing had a deal not been reached.
The bill, dubbed the Fiscal Responsibility Act, suspends the debt ceiling through Jan. 1, 2025, in exchange for cuts in unspecified domestic programs and a 3% cap on military spending increases in fiscal year 2024.
It also provides $45 billion for a recently created program to support veterans who had been exposed to toxic burn pits, ends the freeze on student loan payments and requires able-bodied, low-income adults to work until age 54 to receive food aid.