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Biden stumps for debt ceiling deal in Westchester

President Joe Biden speaks on the debt limit during an event at SUNY Westchester Community College, Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
John Minchillo/AP
President Joe Biden speaks on the debt limit during an event at SUNY Westchester Community College, Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Valhalla, N.Y. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

President Biden returned to New York Wednesday to accuse House Republicans of attempting to hold the U.S. economy hostage as talks over raising the debt ceiling have stalled.

The visit to SUNY Westchester was Biden’s first trip to the Hudson Valley since appearing at IBM’s Poughkeepsie plant in October. At the time, the Democrat was taking a victory lap for the CHIPS and Science Act as IBM announced its plan to invest $20 billion in the region.

Wednesday in Valhalla, under a blue banner that read “investing in America,” President Biden spoke to a crowd that included union delegations.

His message to House Republicans: stop playing games.

“It's important for the American people to know what's at stake. This isn't just a theoretical debate going on in Washington, the decisions we make, you're gonna have real impact on real people's lives. And that's what I'm here to talk about today. So let me tell you a story about what's going on…”

Biden accused the MAGA wing of the Republican Party of holding the economy hostage by threatening to default on the nation’s debt.

“This is no time to put all this at risk, to threaten a recession, to put at risk millions of dollars, to undermine America's standing in the world. Republican threats are dangerous and they make no sense,” said Biden.

The president said the House debt ceiling plan would cost 780,000 jobs. He warned of cuts to veterans’ healthcare, impacts that would cost jobs for 100,000 teachers and support staff, and the elimination of tax credits that incentivize high-tech manufacturing and a greener economy.

Moreover, a default, he said, would damage the country’s reputation abroad.

“This is a manufactured crisis. There's no question about America's ability to pay his bills. America is the strongest economy in the world. And we should be cutting spending and lowering the deficit without a needless crisis in a responsible way.”

With a June 1 deadline to get a deal, Biden’s message was echoed by fellow Democrats, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Representative Jamaal Bowman of the 16th House District, and New York Governor Kathy Hochul, a former Congresswoman.

“Republicans don't want us to work together. They don't want us to do what we're required to do. And that's called paying your bills,” said Hochul.

The House Republican plan does raise the debt ceiling but also cuts domestic spending by trillions of dollars over the next decade. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the U.S. won’t default on its debt — including Tuesday after a meeting with the president and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy said he “didn’t see any movement” but also said he expected another meeting among leaders on Friday.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said the House GOP plan is “dead on arrival.”

Meantime, local House Republicans want Biden to come to the table. Marc Molinaro of the 19th District knocked the president for campaigning instead of negotiating.

“We are on the verge of a debt crisis and already facing an inflation crisis and a border crisis. In the House, we are addressing these issues,” said Molinaro.

Mike Lawler, of the 17th District, attended the speech and said he was able to speak with the president backstage.

“There is always room to work together and negotiate. And I think the Joe Biden of old did that, knows how to do it, and should do that with the speaker – he should again on Friday – and really make progress towards an agreement,” said Lawler.

Biden thanked Lawler for attending the speech, saying he’s the type of Republican he used to deal with in Congress.

Meantime, the president continues to cite major legislation such as the American Rescue Plan Act and Inflation Reduction Act, and economic growth under his presidency — including 12.7 million new jobs. The inflation rate is also slowing — now under 5 percent for the first time in nearly two years.

Biden was also scheduled to attend a fundraiser in New York City during the trip.

The Hudson Valley is seen as a key battleground in the 2024 Congressional elections.

Reporting from Valhalla, this is Lucas Willard for WAMC News.

Lucas Willard is a news reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011. He produces and hosts The Best of Our Knowledge and WAMC Listening Party.