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Democratic congresswoman threatens backlash ‘in the streets’ if she doesn’t get her way on debt ceiling fight

By Ben Marquis
|
May 24, 2023

A top Democratic member of Congress seemed to insinuate that angry protests -- and the always possible riotous violence -- could ensue if Republicans prevail over Democrats in negotiations on increasing the nation's debt limit.

Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), chair of the House Progressive Caucus, warned on Tuesday of the potential for a "huge backlash" from elected Democrats but also "in the streets" if the White House makes too many concessions in the debt limit talks, the Daily Wire reported.

Jayapal and many of her Democratic colleagues have demanded a "clean" debt limit increase with no conditions attached while Republicans have stood virtually united in insisting that any debt limit increase be contingent upon spending cuts and other reforms.

A deal would need to be agreed upon and passed into law prior to June 1 to avoid the presumptive deadline by which Treasury Sec. Janet Yellen has suggested the federal government may become unable to pay for all of its debts and obligations and could potentially enter into default.

Possible Protests and Riots Insinuated

Tuesday morning, while speaking with a CNN reporter on the steps of the Capitol about a possible deal in which the White House would agree to some of the spending cuts proposed by Republicans, Rep. Jayapal made it clear that such an outcome would be viewed as unacceptable and spark "backlash."

"I think there would be a huge backlash from our entire House Democratic caucus, certainly the progressives, but also in the streets," the congresswoman said. "It’s important that we don’t take steps back from the very strong agenda that the president himself shepherded and led over the past two years."

A similar but less stark sentiment was expressed by fellow progressive Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), who told the same CNN reporter, "It’s going to be a problem. We do not legislate through the debt ceiling for this very reason."

To be sure, neither Jayapal nor Ocasio-Cortez directly called for protests and violence, but given what has been seen from the Democratic Party's base over the past several years when things don't go their way politically, the prediction of a "huge backlash" occurring "in the streets" if a GOP-favorable deal is reached can be easily understood to mean angry protests that could potentially spiral out of control into destructive and violent riots.

Updates on the Ongoing Debt Limit Negotiations

Meanwhile, negotiations on a debt limit deal reportedly continued on Tuesday but made no real progress toward an agreement, according to veteran reporter Jake Sherman, founder of the Capitol-focused Punchbowl News, who shared that Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (CA-20) urged his fellow GOPers that morning to "hang with me on the debt limit" and remain steadfast as "We are nowhere near a deal yet."

Sherman further reported that McCarthy said of his recent talks with the White House, "I told the president three things: No clean debt limit, no raising taxes, spend less money," as well as that he had called them out for the "mistake" of initially refusing to even consider entering into negotiations on a debt limit increase.

According to Punchbowl News, the ongoing negotiations between the House GOP and President Joe Biden's White House were described as "extremely fluid" and as having "seesawed between positive and on the brink of a breakdown."

Granted, that description comes largely from the Republican negotiators, who have frequently spoken with reporters about the ongoing talks, while the White House negotiators have remained largely tight-lipped about what is occurring.

At issue are the Republican demands for significant reductions in future spending and strengthening work requirements for able-bodied adult welfare recipients, which the White House has attempted to counter with a proposal to temporarily freeze spending at its current level, plus the closure of certain tax loopholes and increased negotiations on drug prices for Medicare.

Polling Reveals Recent Shift in Public Opinion on Debt Limit Increase

Punchbowl News suggested that Republicans, by virtue of their near-constant updates to reporters in contrast to the closely guarded White House team, appeared to have recently gained the upper hand in terms of the narrative battle in the media, as evidenced by the results of a pair of recent polls.

First was an NPR/Marist poll of 1,286 adults between May 15-18, with a margin of error of 3.4 percent, which found that 52 percent thought the debt limit should be raised with no conditions, while 42 percent said an increase should be tied to cuts.

However, a CNN poll of 1,227 adults between May 17-20, with a margin of error of 3.7 percent, exposed a shift in opinion in that 60 percent said a debt limit increase should be tied to spending cuts while only 24 percent said an increase should be unconditional and 15 percent said the debt limit shouldn't be increased at all, regardless of the potential economic fallout from a possible default.