AP Photo/Alex Brandon
- President Biden on MSNBC called Speaker McCarthy an “honest man” but said he was constrained by the GOP.
- “He has to agree to things that maybe he believes but are just extreme,” Biden told Stephanie Ruhle.
- Biden and McCarthy are in the midst of a protracted stalemate over the country’s debt limit.
President Joe Biden, in an interview that aired on Friday, said he felt that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was “honest” but described the California Republican as being constrained by his party’s most conservative lawmakers.
After the MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle asked Biden if he thought McCarthy was an “honest broker,” the president — who previously worked with the Republican leader while serving as vice president — didn’t appear frustrated with him, but was less charitable when it came to the GOP as a whole.
“I think he’s an honest man. I think he’s in a position, though, he had to make a deal, 15 votes, where he just about sold away everything that he — at the far, far right,” Biden said, referencing the 15 rounds of balloting that it took for McCarthy to secure the speakership in January after a bloc of conservatives spent days holding out on backing the GOP leader until they extracted enough concessions to let a final vote move forward.
“There’s a Republican Party and there are MAGA Republicans. And the MAGA Republicans really have put him in a position where in order to stay speaker, he has to agree to things that maybe he believes but are just extreme,” he continued.
When Ruhle asked Biden if he thought he could accomplish anything legislatively with a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-led House this year, the president expressed optimism for some breakthroughs.
“Yes, if I get a chance to get votes. They have to vote on something. I’d like them to vote on whether or not they’re going to provide for enough teachers in America so we can educate our kids,” he said, pointing to the proposed Republican budget that a White House budget office analysis revealed could lead to the loss of roughly 100,000 teaching positions.
“I’d want them to vote on making sure we have enough police and FBI agents in America. Their cutting 28,000 federal agents — FBI and DEA and the rest. Why? I want to make sure they guarantee that we’re not going to be doing anything to eliminate Medicaid support for people,” he continued.
Biden and House Republicans are now in a stalemate over the debt limit. The president wants Congress to pass a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling, similar to what has happened in past administrations. However, House Republicans are insistent that Biden work with them to identify substantive cuts, and have so far said they would not back a clean bill.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party. This is a different group. And I think that we have to make it clear to the American people that I am prepared to negotiate in detail with their budget,” Biden said during the interview. “How much are you going to spend? How much are you going to tax? Where can we cut?”