More Democrats Criticizing Biden In Debt Ceiling Talks


Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) became the latest Democrat to criticize President Joe Biden for failing to negotiate earlier with Republicans on the debt ceiling Wednesday, as a growing coalition of progressives raise concerns about Biden’s apparent openness to stricter welfare work requirements as a condition for raising the federal borrowing limit.

Key Facts

Democrats are in a “weaker position” now in the debt ceiling talks than they would have been if Biden began negotiating earlier, Golden said Wednesday on NBC’s Meet the Press, adding “I’ve been disappointed with the way [the Biden Administration] has handled it up until last week . . . it didn’t have to be this way.”

Golden’s comments come after Biden began talks last week with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to iron out the details for raising the federal borrowing limit ahead of a June 1 deadline.

Biden previously said he would not negotiate with Republicans, but in recent days expressed openness to their demand to raise the 20-hour-per-week work-requirement age cap for food stamps, a provision McCarthy said was a “red line” in the talks and one that has raised alarms among Democrats.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), a senior member of the Senate finance and budget committees, said she was “deeply concerned” about the potential change in work requirements, while progressive Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) directly attacked the president, accusing him of “every now and then, [moving]

Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) also criticized the GOP’s push to raise the work requirement age for food stamps from 49 to 55 and threatened to vote against any debt ceiling bill that included the condition.

On Friday, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and six Democrats sent a letter to Biden urging him not to agree to the new work requirements, calling them “harsh and ineffective.”

Crucial Quote

“The issue here is principle: If you accept the idea that you can, in essence, be held to blackmail with the debt ceiling, it will be done again and again. Not to be crass, but it’s essentially negotiating with terrorists who have taken hostages,” Dean Baker, an economist at the left-leaning Center for Economic Policy and Research told the Washington Post. “More and more people in progressive circles are becoming concerned with it.”


White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the president’s negotiations on Tuesday, telling reporters, “He knows how this works. And there’s no one more experienced in knowing how to get this done.” Biden on Sunday suggested he was open to raising the age cap,: “I voted for tougher aid programs. That’s in the law now,” he said, referring to his 1996 Senate vote for Clinton-era welfare reform, adding, “I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is.” Biden reiterated his stance again Wednesday, telling reporters “it’s possible there could be a few other [work requirements], but not of any consequence” in the deal, but not in regards to Medicaid, which is also included in the GOP debt ceiling bill that passed the House last month. “I’m not going to accept any work requirements that’s going to impact on medical health needs of people,” Biden said.

Key Background

Biden and McCarthy both expressed a new sense of optimism following their meeting Tuesday amid a months-long impasse over raising the $31.4 trillion debt limit. The talks began after U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier this month said the federal government could run out of cash and be unable to pay its bills by June 1, a scenario that would spark severe economic consequences, including a possible recession and downgraded U.S. credit score. In addition to new work requirements, the White House is reportedly also considering GOP proposals to cap federal spending for at least two years and roll back unused Covid-19 funding. The Biden Administration is angling to include the terms in a fiscal year 2024 budget, however, rather than legislation to raise the debt ceiling.


The McCarthy-aligned conservative advocacy group, the American Action Network, released an ad Wednesday promoting the legislation passed by the GOP-led House last month to raise the debt ceiling, cut federal spending and eliminate key Biden policy priorities. The ad accused the president of “ignoring this common-sense plan” and “demanding he get everything he wants or else he’ll cripple the economy.”

Further Reading

McCarthy Says Debt Ceiling Deal Could Be Imminent—Here’s What Might Hold It Up (Forbes)

Welfare Work Requirements Emerge As Central Issue In Debt Ceiling Fight (Forbes)

Here’s Why The Debt Limit Matters—And How An Accidental Default Could Spark A Recession (Forbes)

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