WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden warned Friday that Republicans will “crash the economy next year” if they win control of Congress, looking to blunt the edge that growing fears of a recession have given Republicans less than three weeks before the midterm elections.
Biden took aim at House Republican leaders who have suggested they might use the debt ceiling as “leverage” to achieve their goals on entitlements in a budget showdown under a Republican majority. The president singled out Social Security and Medicare.
“If you’re worried about the economy, you need to know this,” Biden said. “The Republican leadership in Congress has made it clear. They will crash the economy next year by threatening the full faith and credit of the United States for the first time in our history, putting the United States in default, unless we yield to their demand to cut Social Security and Medicare.”
The president added: “Let me be really clear. I will not yield.”
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Biden’s remarks came as he touted a $1.4 trillion decrease in the federal budget deficit this year as pandemic spending has slowed. The debt limit, the subject of several partisan fights in recent years, sets the limit the federal government can borrow to carry out spending authorized by Congress.
Biden told reporters he opposes eliminating the debit limit, calling it “irresponsible.” His position puts him at odds with his Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, who has expressed support for abolishing the debt ceiling.
Economists for months have predicted an economic slowdown, and Biden has acknowledged a “slight recession” is possible. Inflation hovering near a 40-year high and a souring economy have crystalized as the top issues for midterm voters, according to multiple polls, with Republican candidates receiving higher marks on the economy than Democrats.
It has put Democrats at a major midterm disadvantage, particularly as economic fears top concerns about abortion rights, which Democrats have campaigned aggressively on restoring.
Republicans have strong odds to regain control of the House and are in position to perhaps take the Senate. Although recent polling has shown Republicans gaining traction, Biden predicted “we’re going to see one more shift back to our side in the closing days.”
Biden cited “good news on the economy,” pointing to low unemployment and gas prices that are once again easing. However, inflation remains above 8%, proving harder to shake than the administration predicted, and the stock market remains volatile.
In contrast, Biden said Republicans want to extend former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts for corporations and “send jobs overseas” so companies can pay workers lower wages.
“The election is not a referendum. It’s a choice,” Biden said. “And Republicans criticize my economic record, but look at what I’ve inherited and what I’ve done, and look at what they’re offering.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.