Oct 4, 2021
Joe Biden Speech on Raising Debt Ceiling Transcript October 4
President Joe Biden spoke about raising the debt ceiling during a press conference on October 4, 2021. Read the transcript of the speech briefing here.
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President Biden: (01:56)
Good morning. Will come as no surprise to you, I’d like to talk about what we need today to raise the debt limit and why the Republicans in Congress, or what they’re doing today is so reckless and dangerous, in my view. Raising the debt limit comes down to paying what we already owe, what is already been acquired, not anything new. It starts with a simple truth. The United States is a nation that pays its bills and always has from its inception. We have never defaulted. What we pay for so it keeps us a great nation, Social Security benefits for seniors, salaries for brave service members and benefits for veterans and other financial obligations for our people and for our nation.
President Biden: (02:50)
We’re able to meet these obligations based on the revenue we receive from taxes and based on our ability to borrow what when needed. And in that case, we’re able to borrow because we always pay our debt. We always pay what we owe. We’ve never failed. That’s America. That’s who we are. That’s what’s called for. It’s called full faith and credit of the United States. It’s rock solid. It’s the best in the world. But here’s the deal, there’s a cap on what we can borrow called the debt limit and only Congress can raise or lower that debt limit.
President Biden: (03:30)
So let me be really clear, this is really important to know. Raising the debt limit is about paying off our old debts. It has nothing to do with any new spending being considered. It has nothing to do with my plan for infrastructure or building back better. Zero. Zero. Both of which I might add are paid for. So if we’re going to make good on what’s already been approved by previous Congresses and previous presidents and parties, we have to pay for it. Social security benefits the American people are promised, salaries for service men and women, benefits for veterans.
President Biden: (04:10)
We’re going to have to raise the debt limit if we’re going to meet those obligations. And raising the debt limit is usually a bipartisan undertaking, and it should be. That’s what is not happening today. The reason we have to raise a debt limit is in part because of the reckless tax and spending policies under the previous Trump Administration. In four years, they incurred nearly $8 trillion. In four years, $8 trillion in additional debt and bills we have to now pay off. That’s more than a quarter of the entire debt incurred now outstanding after more than 200 years.
President Biden: (04:54)
And Republicans in Congress raised the debt three times when Donald Trump was president and each time with Democrats support. But now they won’t raise it, even though they’re responsible for more than $8 trillion in bills incurred in four years under the previous administration. That’s what we’d be paying off. They won’t raise it even though the falling on the debt would lead to a self-inflicted wound that takes our economy over a cliff and risk jobs and retirement savings, Social Security benefits, salaries for service members, benefits for veterans, and so much more.
President Biden: (05:34)
A failure to raise the debt limit will call into question Congress’ willingness to meet our obligations that we’ve already incurred, not new ones. We’ve already incurred. This is going to undermine the safety of US Treasury securities and will threaten the reserve status of the dollar as the world’s currency. The world relies on. American credit rating will be downgraded. Interest rates will rise for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and borrowing. Folks watching at home, you should know this is the Republican position.
President Biden: (06:13)
Here it is. They won’t vote to raise the debt limit to cover their own spending. Democrats voted with them to cover that spending last four years, the previous four years. They say Democrats should do it alone, but then they’re threatening to use a procedural power called a filibuster, meaning that we’d have to get 60 votes, not 50 votes to increase the debt limit. This would block the Democrats in meeting our obligations and responsibilities to prevent Congress from raising the debt limit.
President Biden: (06:49)
So let’s be clear, not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they’re threatening use the power, their power to prevent us from doing our job saving the economy from a catastrophic event. I think quite frankly, it’s hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful. Their obstruction and irresponsibility knows absolutely no bounds, excuse me, especially as we’re clawing our way out of this pandemic. Democrats will meet our responsibility and obligation to this country. We’re not expecting Republicans to do their part.
President Biden: (07:25)
They made it clear from the beginning. We tried asking to no avail. We’re just asking them not to use procedural tricks to block us from doing the job that they won’t do. Meteor is headed to crash into our economy. Democrats are willing to do all the work stopping it. Republicans just have to let us do our job. Just get out of the way. You don’t want to help save the country, get out of the way, so you don’t destroy it. We don’t have time to delay with elaborate procedural schemes, which Republicans’ proposals require.
President Biden: (08:03)
Scores of votes without any certainty at all. Many of which have nothing to do with the debt limit at all. And that’s when accidents happen. In the days ahead, even before the default date, people may see the value of their retirement account shrink. They may see interest rates go up, which will all of my raise their mortgage payments and car payments. And the American people, look, I just say it this way. As soon as this week, your savings in your pocket or your pocket book could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt.
President Biden: (08:42)
It’s as simple as that. Republicans say they will not do their part to avoid this needless calamity. So be it, but they need to stop playing Russian roulette with the US economy. It’s one thing to pay our debts already acquired. It’s another to require a super majority to pay the debts already acquired. It’s not right. Let the Democrats vote to raise the debt ceiling this week without obstruction or further delays. Democrats in the House have already passed the bill that would do that. It’s sitting in the United States Senate where Democrats have the votes ready to pass it.
President Biden: (09:22)
That’s the only way to eliminate the uncertainty and risk that’s going to harm American families and our economy. Let us vote and end the mess. We’ve got to get this done. We must get this done. It is like, as I said, playing Russian roulette to play these games. We can do it this week. Just get out of the way and let us pass it. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (09:51)
Mr. President, Senator Mitch McConnell says he has sent a letter to you explaining his view. Have you seen that letter? Have communicated with him and how dire do you believe this is if action doesn’t take place in the next few days?
President Biden: (10:04)
First of all, I did get a letter. I got it 10 minutes before I walked in here. I’ve read it. I plan on talking to Mitch about it. He and I have been down this road once before back when I was vice-president and I hope we can have an honest conversation about what he’s proposing. And I think the easiest way to do this, and if the Republicans would not use the filibuster, would be to let us vote on what is already in the Senate right now passed by the House to raise the debt limit. And we could do that in the next several days.
Speaker 3: (10:42)
Thank you, Mr. President. You’ve often touted your experience in the Senate, your 36 years in the Senate. Your aides have talked about your abilities to be a closer on deals involving legislation. Why were you unable, Mr. President, to close the deal with members of your own party on key parts of your legislative agenda last week?
President Biden: (11:05)
Been able to close the deal in 99% of my party. Two, two people. That’s still underway. I don’t think there’s been a president who’s been able to close deals that’s been a position where he has only 50 votes in the Senate and a bare majority in the House. This is a process. This is a process. We’ll get it done.
Speaker 3: (11:35)
It sounds like you’re putting the blame squarely on two US Senators for your inability to close that deal, Senator Sinema, Senator Manchin. Am I incorrect? Is that who the blame lies with?
President Biden: (11:44)
Look, I need 50 votes in the Senate. I have 48.
Speaker 4: (11:50)
Mr. President, Leader Schumer has vowed not raise the debt ceiling through the reconciliation process. So ultimately …
President Biden: (11:57)
Say that again, I’m sorry.
Speaker 4: (11:58)
Leader Schumer has said he won’t raise the debt through the reconciliation process. So ultimately if push comes to shove and Senator McConnell does not change his position, what is more important? That position that Senator Schumer has or raising the debt ceiling? Then I also have a question for you on [inaudible 00:12:14].
President Biden: (12:15)
I’m going answer one. I’m not going to answer [inaudible 00:12:17]. Let’s stick on the debt, so we don’t confuse the American people. Number one, the issue of reconciliation, which is like code to the American people. But what’s reconciliation? There is a process that I understand the Republican leader is willing to initiate, go through that would require literally up to hundreds of votes. It’s unlimited number of votes having nothing directly to do with the debt limit. Could be for everything from Ethiopia to anything else that has nothing to do with the debt limit, and it’s fraught with all kinds of potential danger for miscalculation.
President Biden: (13:05)
And it would have to happen twice. So you could literally have several hundred votes over the next number of days. Everything else would come to a standstill, but you’d still find yourself in a situation where at the end of the day, you may have passed something that in fact then has to be undone again by either Democrats or Republicans. It’s an incredibly complicated cumbersome process when there’s a very simple process sitting out there. Sitting at the desk in the United States Senate is a bill passed by the House saying we Democrats will raise the debt limit, take responsibility for raising, even though some voted to acquire that debt as well.
President Biden: (13:49)
We will go ahead and do that. That’s the way to proceed.
Speaker 4: (13:55)
When it comes down to reconciliation or raising the debt ceiling, which provision will you take?
President Biden: (14:00)
I’m not going to cross that bridge until we have to get there.
Speaker 4: (14:04)
Allegations of genocide and why you haven’t yet imposed the sentence that you authorized two weeks ago, sir?
President Biden: (14:09)
Speak to that later.
Speaker 5: (14:11)
Regarding your build back better agenda, we know the top line figure from Senator Manchin is 1.5 trillion. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has yet to really give that number where she’s willing to go, how high she’s willing to go up, but she said she’s negotiating good faith with the White House. What is her figure?
President Biden: (14:28)
I’ll let her tell you that. I don’t want to …. We’re in negotiations.
Speaker 5: (14:32)
Is it between 1.5 and 3.5? Is it higher at least than the 1.5?
President Biden: (14:37)
I’m not going to negotiate in public.
Speaker 6: (14:42)
Mr. President, how is what the Republicans are doing now any different from when you oppose raising the debt limit as a Senator through the Bush years?
President Biden: (14:51)
Because we weren’t calling for filibuster. We did not require 60 votes, and it was a straight up and down vote.
Speaker 7: (14:57)
Mr. President, you’re talking about how you have 48 Democratic votes right now. The other two have been pressured over the weekend by activists. Joe Manchin had people on kayaks show up to his boat to yell at him. Senator Sinema last night was chased onto a restroom. Do you think that those tactics are crossing a line?
President Biden: (15:19)
I don’t think they’re appropriate tactics, but it happens to everybody. The only people it doesn’t happen to are people who have Secret Service standing around them. So, it’s a part of the process. Yes?
Speaker 8: (15:33)
A lot of people have been trying to attach immigration …
Speaker 9: (15:41)
Mr. President, I know you don’t want to comment on other Senators’ positions in the negotiations, but what do you think the size of the reconciliation package should be? What specific dollar figure?
President Biden: (15:46)
Well, I laid out what I thought it should be. It’s not going to be that. It’s going to be less. I mean, look, the legislation, both the build back better piece, as well as the infrastructure piece are things that I wrote. These didn’t come from, God love him, Bernie Sanders or AOC or anybody else. I wrote them. I disagreed with Medicare for all, for example, I disagreed, but I laid out what I thought would be important. For example, I think in the build back better program, it’s required that we in fact have the best education available to us.
President Biden: (16:30)
And I’ll speaking to this in detail tomorrow. But look, here’s the situation. How can we in an ever competitive world, increasingly competitive world, how can we not meet the educational standards of at least other countries are working toward? Nobody is reducing the number of years they want their children to go to school or people go to school. You’ve heard me say it before, as my wife says, if any country out-educates us, they’re going to out-compete us. Look what China’s doing. Look what the rest of the world is doing. They’re investing.
President Biden: (17:06)
They’re also investing in things that relate to ability for people to go to work and stay at work. We have several million women who can’t go back to work because they don’t have any way to take care of their children. So to give a tax cut to a working mom to be able to afford daycare, is that bad? Is that a bad idea? I think it’s a darn good idea. It will get people back to work. So there’s a lot of things in the legislation I’m going to be talking about across the country that I think the American people overwhelmingly support.
President Biden: (17:37)
But, the idea that somehow this is somebody else’s legislation. This is what I wrote.
Speaker 10: (17:43)
Sir, would you accept, say, a $2 trillion reconciliation bill? Would that be acceptable to you?
President Biden: (17:50)
Again, as you know, it’s not a smart thing to negotiate with yourself in public. Let’s see. We’re in the process of continuing to talk to all the parties and see what we can get done.
Speaker 11: (18:05)
Thank you so much, Mr. President, two questions. First, you said there was progress in the negotiation. But today, you say you only have 48 votes. So what is the struggles? And another question on report in international news that was [inaudible 00:18:20] yesterday about the Pandora papers. Do you have a reaction? You put fight against corruption as the …
President Biden: (18:23)
About what? I’m sorry. I didn’t get that last part.
Speaker 11: (18:23)
Pandora papers, the Pandora papers. You’d said that you could fight against corruption in the core of your national security policies. So what is your reaction and do you plan to do anything about it?
President Biden: (18:42)
We’re looking at that right now. And the first part of your question was what?
Speaker 11: (18:45)
Was about progress. What does progress look like for you in negotiations?
President Biden: (18:53)
Winning. That’s the progress. Last question.
Speaker 12: (18:55)
I just want to be very clear. Can you guarantee that the US will not reach the debt ceiling, that that will not happen?
President Biden: (19:04)
No, I can’t. That’s up to Mitch McConnell.
Speaker 12: (19:09)
So, it is possible that the US will not pay that its debts? That is …
President Biden: (19:15)
I believe that that will be the end result because of consequence is so dire. I don’t believe that. But can I guarantee it? If I could, I would, but I can’t. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.