Democrats in the U.S. Congress expressed frustration with President Joe Biden’s willingness to engage with Republicans demanding tougher work requirements for food aid recipients as part of any deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.
They have stopped short of threatening to block such moves, as talks on lifting the federal government’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit shifted into a bilateral format between Democrat Biden, Republican House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy and their staffs.
If Biden and McCarthy reach a deal, possibly as soon as Sunday, Congress could struggle to get enough votes for passage ahead of a June, when the Treasury Department has warned the government may be unable to pay all its bills.
Some hardline Republicans may push back against any increase in the debt ceiling, while some progressive Democrats voiced opposition to the work limits after spending months calling for a “clean” hike without conditions.
Liberal Democrats, including Senator Raphael Warnock and Representative Ro Khanna, put Biden on notice that they do not support more stringent requirements to existing law.
Khanna, asked whether revisions would prompt him to vote to torpedo a deal, said: “It would be a strong consideration.”
Republicans have called for saving $120 billion by expanding work requirements to qualify for food aid, monetary help for poor families and other assistance. Biden on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to imposing new requirements the Medicaid program for low-income Americans.
He added that there could be a “few” changes in current law but none “of any consequence.”
Warnock accused Republicans of “using poor people as pawns” in negotiations, saying their proposal “presupposes that poor people are in some way morally deficient. People want to work. And some people can’t.