Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other congressional Democrats...

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other congressional Democrats pressed Republicans on Tuesday for a plan to raise the federal debt limit. Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin

WASHINGTON — New York’s top two congressional Democrats — Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries — emerged from a meeting with President Joe Biden on Tuesday calling on Republican leaders to put forward a plan to address the federal debt limit.

“Show us your plan,” Schumer told reporters outside the West Wing. “Let's see what their plan is on the debt ceiling. Do they want to cut Social Security? Do they want to cut Medicare? Do they want to cut veterans benefits? Do they want to cut police? Do they want to cut food for needy kids?"

With Republicans in control of the U.S. House, conservative Republicans have called on new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to withhold support for a debt-limit increase until the White House agrees to scaling back federal spending to last year’s levels.

Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) said congressional Democrats were “ready to have a common sense, forward looking discussion” about future spending, but noted the debate about raising the debt ceiling involves paying off debt already incurred by the federal government.

“We have a responsibility to pay the debts that the Congress has already incurred,” Jeffries said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned the United States could default if Congress doesn’t act by June.

Democrats had hoped they could strike a deal with Republicans in the Senate to pass a clean deficit limit increase to put pressure on House Republicans to raise it by then.

But Senate Minority Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday dashed such hopes when he told reporters outside the Senate chamber that the solution will have to be hashed out between McCarthy and Biden.

“I can't imagine any debt ceiling provision passed out of the Senate with 60 votes could actually pass this particular House," McConnell told reporters outside the Senate chamber after party caucus luncheons.

"So I think the final solution lies between Speaker McCarthy and Biden,” McConnell said. 

McConnell recalled the last time members of Congress clashed over Republican demands for spending cuts in return for raising the debt limit in 2011.

McConnell negotiated the Budget Control Act, which included an increase in the debt limit, with then-Vice President Joe Biden.

“It did actually work," McConnell said. "It reduced government spending two years in a row for the first time since right after the Korean War.”

However, he conceded that Congress subsequently overruled the spending limits for defense and domestic spending.

Schumer (D-N.Y.), speaking at the Capitol before his meeting with Biden, said: “If Republicans want to play brinkmanship with the deficit and demanding cuts, they need to show us exactly what they want to cut.”

Biden, speaking at the top of his meeting with Schumer, Jeffries and other Democratic leaders, took aim at what he called “extreme" GOP economic plans.

“Apparently, they’re genuinely serious about cutting Social Security, cutting Medicare," Biden said.

"And I love their 30% sales tax,” Biden sarcastically said. “We want to talk a lot about that.”

Despite the partisan talking points, Biden is scheduled to visit New York City next Tuesday to tout the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in November 2021.

Biden will discuss how the bill is funding the massive Gateway Tunnel rail project between New York and New Jersey.

The infrastructure package has $8 billion for the project, which includes a new Hudson River Tunnel and repairs to rail tunnels damaged by Superstorm Sandy.

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