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Biden hits MAGA Republicans on firefighter and conservation jobs

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Thursday that “extreme MAGA Republicans” are holding the U.S. economy “hostage” to the debt ceiling standoff and threatening environmental spending in exchange for raising the national debt ceiling.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Biden lamented “a time when some of the country’s most dedicated conservationists were on the other side” as the two sides traded barbs in the fight for the federal spending.

Now House Republicans are using the threat of a default to slash the administration’s environmental budget and more, the president charged. Biden said the responsibility for raising the nation’s borrowing limit rests with Congress, and House Republicans led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy are trying to use the threat of default as leverage to force concessions.

‘He wants to cut anything but defense spending by 22%,’ Biden said, warning ‘thousands of wildland firefighters would stop getting paid’, park rangers ‘risk losing their jobs’ and layoffs threaten workers who regulate water quality.

“That would mean cutting resources to monitor pollution, allowing polluters to get away with it and exposing vulnerable communities to dirty air and water,” Biden added. “We can’t let that happen.”

McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

President Joe Biden speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House, May 11, 2023.Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rose Garden’s remarks came the same day Biden and congressional leaders postponed a meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss the debt ceiling after tense talks on Tuesday. Biden has said he would only accept a debt bill to raise the borrowing limit without any conditions, while Republicans push to negotiate a federal budget that includes sweeping cuts.

Aides met Wednesday and Thursday to seek points of agreement after leaders met at the White House earlier in the week, a meeting McCarthy described to Republican members as a waste of time.

The leaders are expected to meet again ahead of Biden’s trip to Asia next week. The Treasury Department has told lawmakers the government could default on the $31.4 trillion national debt by June 1, a near horizon for dealmakers.

Failure to break the deadlock by the end of the month could disrupt financial markets and prove politically damaging for Biden, shaking public confidence in his leadership as he heads into his re-election campaign. .

Biden, who announced his 2024 candidacy two weeks ago, faces broader political pressure over his climate agenda, the centerpiece of his 2020 presidential campaign. The president has drawn ire from environmental activists, including over of its decision to approve Willow, an $8 billion oil drilling project in Alaska.

Biden said Thursday his administration has protected 9 million acres of land in Alaska and will ban new drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The president said he directed Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to designate 770,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean as protected.


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