Top Democratic leaders on Tuesday exited their firstWhite House meeting since the start of the new Congress projecting a united front and sending a clear message about their GOP colleagues: It’s us versus them.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, flanked by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and other leaders from both chambers, tried to set the tone for the next two years against a fresh House Republican majority currently threatening a showdown with the White House over the nation’s debt limit.
“Democrats are unified. Republicans are in chaos,” Schumer told reporters after congressional Democrats met with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in a Roosevelt Room meeting. “Democrats are saying that we can come together in a moderate way. [Republicans] are extremists. That’s the contrast: Unity versus chaos.”
The stalemate over the nation’s debt ceiling was a prime example of how the shift in congressional power could shape the rest of Biden’s term, as Republican lawmakers push for spending cuts before agreeing to Democrats’ requests to increase the debt limit.
At the start of the meeting, Biden said: “I have no intention of letting the Republicans wreck our economy, nor does anybody around this table.” He is expected to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to discuss the standoff, though White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday said she had no updates about timing for when.
Later, Schumer said the White House and Democratic leaders were on the “same page” regarding the debt ceiling. White House officials have continued to stress that Congress must pass a clean limit increase, noting that lawmakers raised the debt ceiling three times under former President Donald Trump without demanding spending cuts.
“One of the things we want to do on the debt ceiling is say to Republicans, show us your plan,” Schumer said. “Do they want to cut Social Security? Do they want to cut Medicare? Do they want to cut veterans benefits? Do they want to cut police? Do they want to cut food for needy kids? What’s your plan? We don’t know if they can even put one together.”
Jeffries described the meeting as “wonderful,” adding that the group discussed jobs, infrastructure and the administration’s accomplishments. Schumer also said the group agreed to lean into implementation of the bills they’ve passed.
“One of the things we’re going to work together on, the president, the House, the Senate, is making sure that implementation of all the good things that we did in the last two years gets to the people quickly, in a real way, and gets to the right people — the working families of America,” Schumer said.
Schumer and Jeffries were joined by House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.)
The Democratic leaders retreated back into the White House without taking questions on the president’s handling of classified documents, a storyline that has dominated the new year for Biden.
The White House on Tuesday evening also hosted new members of Congress for a reception in the East Room.
Olivia Olander contributed to this report.