Biden's Hardline Debt Ceiling Stance Unpopular in Swing Districts, Poll Finds

McCarthy-aligned PAC finds half of swing voters oppose debt ceiling raise without spending cuts

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April 18, 2023

Swing voters in congressional districts that backed President Joe Biden in 2020 oppose the Democrat's plan to raise the debt ceiling without cutting government spending, a conservative group found in a poll.

American Action Network—an outside group aligned with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.)—on Tuesday released the poll, which surveyed voters in 87 swing congressional districts that Biden won by an average of 5 points in 2020. Fifty percent of respondents said they oppose Biden's plan to raise the U.S. government's $31 trillion debt ceiling without cutting spending, compared with just 37 percent who said they support the plan. Large majorities of respondents also backed a slew of proposals McCarthy has floated in exchange for a debt ceiling deal—nearly 80 percent, for example, backed a proposal that would see the federal government reclaim unspent COVID relief funds, while 62 percent said they support stricter work requirements for those who receive government benefits.

The findings come as Biden refuses to negotiate with McCarthy on the debt limit, which forecasters say must be raised by this summer or early fall to avoid a U.S. debt default. For McCarthy, the nation's $31 trillion debt is "too high" and requires "serious, responsible action" rather than a "no-strings-attached debt-limit increase." Biden disagrees and has refused to negotiate on any debt ceiling raise that is tied to spending cuts or other provisions.

McCarthy during a Monday speech at the New York Stock Exchange hammered Biden for that position, and Tuesday's poll results could embolden the Republican to keep up the fight as the debt ceiling clock ticks on.

"Without exaggeration, American debt is a ticking time bomb that will detonate unless we take serious, responsible action. Yet how has President Biden reacted to this issue? He has done nothing," McCarthy said. "Since the president continues to hide, House Republicans will take action."

The White House quickly dismissed the speech, with Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates accusing McCarthy of "holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage." But some Biden administration allies are beginning to face criticism over the president's absence from the negotiating table. During a Tuesday morning TV appearance, CNBC host Joe Kernen grilled House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D., N.Y.) over Biden's refusal to negotiate.

"Maybe President Biden should show the leadership to just enter into negotiations, as he said he would 75 days ago and hasn't," Kernen said. "Well, President Biden has shown extraordinary leadership," Jeffries responded.