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Head of Black Caucus urges Biden to address nation on debt ceiling

The head of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is calling on President Biden to get more aggressive in the debt ceiling talks, suggesting the White House has remained too quiet throughout the debate at the expense of the Democrats’ negotiating position. 

Democrats have grown increasingly irritated with the White House’s approach to the high-stakes talks, accusing Biden of lying low while Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and his deputies have made the media rounds to broadcast their perspectives to the world. 

As the House left Washington Thursday for the holiday recess, CBC Chairman Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) urged Biden to get more vocal in the discussion, starting with a high-profile address to the country. 

“I would urge the president to use the power of the bully pulpit — of the presidency — and explain to the American people exactly what the options are, and how dire this moment is,” Horsford told reporters at the Capitol. 

Biden weighed in on the debt ceiling talks Thursday from the Rose Garden, where he offered assurances to seniors and veterans receiving federal benefits that those payments would not be diminished by the looming threat of default. 

“Republicans passed a bill that would make huge cuts in important programs that millions of working- and middle-class Americans count on. Huge cuts in the number of teachers, police officers, Border Patrol agents, and increased wait times for Social Security claims,” he said.  “And I won’t agree to that.” 

Yet the brief remarks — which came at the start of his announcement to nominate the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — did not match the public barnstorming campaign being orchestrated by McCarthy and the top GOP negotiators, Reps. Garret Graves (La.) and Patrick McHenry (N.C.), who have scoured the Capitol and cable news shows in recent weeks to pitch their argument to the public. 

“It is not my fault that the Democrats cannot give up on their spending,” McCarthy told reporters during one of numerous press gaggles this week. 

From a messaging standpoint, an increasing number of Democrats fear the Republicans have grabbed the upper hand in the final, most crucial leg of the negotiations. 

“I don’t know if it’s just disengagement, or if they actually have a strategy,” Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) said. “I guess we’ll find out.”

“There could be far more clarification over what is at stake here,” echoed Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.).

Horsford said there have been “several” offers from White House negotiators that have been rejected by the Republicans, including provisions that would lower the cost of prescription drugs for the government and consumers alike. 

But those offers “have not been made public,” Horsford added, suggesting that was a mistake that’s allowed Republicans to avoid scrutiny for rejecting popular policy reforms. 

“That’s one way that we could save, and the president offered that and Republicans have walked away,” Horsford said. “I would call on the president to make an address to the nation to explain exactly what the Republicans have walked away from.”