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Joe Biden concedes that he may have to accept work requirements in exchange for debt deal

 May 18, 2023

Amid ongoing debt ceiling talks, President Joe Biden indicated that including work requirements for recipients of some aid programs could be a potential concession in negotiations.

This stance could lead to discord within his own party, particularly with the left wing. He made the statement before departing for the G7 summit in Japan, the Daily Mail reported.

In response to a question, Biden expressed a willingness to consider work requirements for federal aid. His statement came two days after he criticized Republicans for advocating policies that might put "a million older adults at risk of losing their food assistance and going hungry."

"I'm not going to accept any work requirements that's going to have an impact on medical health needs of people," Biden declared during a briefing on averting a government default. This comment seemed to eliminate the possibility of work prerequisites for Medicaid recipients.

Republican Budget and Biden's Stance

The Republican budget, which Biden often criticizes, proposes augmented work requirements for several federal relief programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Current SNAP regulations require recipients under 50 without children who are non-disabled to work at least 20 hours per week or participate in job training.

Biden also stated, "I'm not going to accept any work requirements much beyond what is already ... I voted years ago for work requirements that exist. But it's possible there could be a few others, but not anything of consequence."

He shared these remarks with reporters in Washington, D.C., moments before he left for a trip he announced would be cut short due to crucial ongoing negotiations.

Opposition from House Democratic Caucus

These proposed changes have met with strong opposition from left-wing members of the House Democratic Caucus, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14) and Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) have labeled it a "terrible idea."

Jayapal, who chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said, “It was confusing because he said that he wasn’t open to much more than what we had, which seemed to leave a little door open.” She added, “But look, I have been clear: That is a nonstarter with us,” Politico reported.

Debt Ceiling Talks and International Commitments

In addition to these debt ceiling talks, the president discussed his decision to curtail the second half of his international trip. Following the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Biden was initially scheduled to visit Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Biden confirmed that leaders of the “Quad” nations — the U.S., Japan, Australia, and India — will continue to meet in Japan. He further announced that he would hold a “press conference on this issue” to discuss the debt ceiling and budgetary matters. He did not field questions formally during his recent visit to Ireland.

National Debt Ceiling

A pressing Issue Biden was adamant that these negotiations focus on the budget, not on raising the debt ceiling, a measure he stated Congress should undertake to address past debts.

"I'm confident that we'll get the agreement on the budget if America will not default," he asserted. If Congress fails to increase the nation's $31 trillion debt limit, the U.S. risks defaulting on its debts.

The stakes of these negotiations are thus immensely high. Reflecting on Tuesday's negotiations, which later transitioned into staff discussions, Biden described them as “civil and respectful,” adding that he felt “everyone came to the meeting in good faith.” He reiterated his confidence in resolving, stating that America would not default on its debts.

White House's Position on House GOP Budget

Previously, the White House expressed significant concerns over the House GOP budget in an official Statement of Administration Position issued last month.

The statement stressed the potential consequences of implementing the proposed budget. The administration argued that the GOP budget plan might jeopardize food assistance for numerous older Americans and lead to millions of individuals losing their Medicaid coverage.