President Biden sought to drive a wedge among Republicans in their escalating dispute over spending and debt on Wednesday, effectively reaching out to moderates in hopes of convincing them to break away from Speaker Kevin McCarthy rather than risk triggering a national default that could throw the economy into a tailspin.
Appearing in a competitive suburb with a vulnerable House Republican in his sights, Mr. Biden accused Mr. McCarthy of pursuing a radical strategy at the behest of the “extreme” wing of his party loyal to former President Donald J. Trump, putting the country in economic jeopardy in a way that he said reasonable Republicans of his own era in the Senate would not have done.
“They’ve taken control of the House,” Mr. Biden said of this wing to a friendly audience at SUNY Westchester Community College in New York’s Hudson Valley. “They have a speaker who has his job because he yielded to the, quote, MAGA element of the party,” he added.
Those hard-right Republicans, Mr. Biden said, are “literally, not figuratively, holding the economy hostage by threatening to default on our nation’s debt, debt we’ve already incurred, we’ve already incurred over the last couple hundred years, unless we give into their threats and demands.”
The trip seemed aimed at least in part at peeling off even a few House Republicans to force the speaker’s hand. Legislation that Mr. McCarthy pushed through the House last month linking an increase in the debt ceiling to significant spending restraints passed with just one vote to spare, so even a relatively small mutiny would complicate Mr. McCarthy’s position.
Mr. Biden singled out Representative Mike Lawler, a local Republican congressman sitting in the front row in the audience on Wednesday, praising him as a more rational member of his party. “Mike’s on the other team,” Mr. Biden said, “but you know what? Mike is the kind of guy that when I was in the Congress, there was a kind of Republican I was used to dealing with. He’s not one of these MAGA Republicans.”
The president’s trip came a day after he hosted Mr. McCarthy and other congressional leaders at the White House to discuss the crisis. The session produced no breakthroughs, but the leaders agreed to have their staffs meet every day and to reconvene themselves on Friday.
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