By Steve Holland and Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden challenged Republicans on Tuesday to release a budget proposal and let Americans decide whether they want to stay the course with his economic vision or pursue policies that he says would drive up the national debt.
Biden, who opposes putting conditions on a debt ceiling increase that is needed to cover outlays and tax cuts already approved by Congress, has pushed Republicans for details on what budget cuts they are looking for in order to raise the federal debt limit.
The president addressed a gathering of county officials in Washington and said he has asked House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy to lay out his budget.
“I suggested, instead of making threats about the debt ceiling, which would be catastrophic, let’s just lay out our budgets,” Biden said. “Here’s the bottom line: I’m simply not going to let the nation default on its debt for the first time in history,” he added.
The White House is due to release its budget on March 9.
House Republicans, the chamber’s controlling party now, want to use the debt ceiling as leverage to push spending cuts, after two years during which Biden’s Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.
Republicans have not yet united around a specific plan, though McCarthy has said they will not try to scale back the two largest benefit programs, Social Security and Medicare.
Congress raised the debt ceiling three times during Republican Donald Trump’s four years in the White House, but it has often imposed conditions on the increase. Just 26 of the 60 debt-ceiling hikes since 1978 have been passed on their own, with many of the bills paired with other budget and spending measures.
The White House has said Biden will discuss federal spending cuts with Republicans, but only after the debt ceiling is lifted, while McCarthy has said Republicans will only lift the ceiling if Biden agrees to spending cuts.
Despite the differences, the two sides say they will continue to talk.
(Reporting by Steve Holland and Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Leslie Adler)