As June’s debt ceiling deadline approaches, here’s where Lee and Romney stand
As talks over raising the federal debt ceiling will soon start between President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Utah’s two senators are taking slightly different approaches to the negotiations.
Critical of both parties’ inability to negotiate, Romney struck a conciliatory tone speaking at a Senate Budget Committee hearing.
“The American people expect us to work on a bipartisan basis to address the challenges that America faces,” he said. “Rather than holding hearings that are about preening and posturing and politicizing and trying to blame the other party. It's really embarrassing.”
Going further, Romney criticized his budget-committee colleagues for not coming together for substantive discussions on the nation’s debt or spending.
“We've never had a back-room meeting to talk about these things, to negotiate, to talk about how we're going to rein in spending,” he said.
While both senators have expressed a desire for spending cuts to go along with any raise, Lee has taken a more uncompromising stance — at least publicly.
“Any debt ceiling increase needs to have significant, substantive, substantial spending reforms in it, or we should have no business supporting it,” Lee told reporters on May 4.
Lee went further on his personal Twitter account, urging all Senate Republicans to “support the House-passed debt-ceiling bill, which contains substantial spending reforms, and should oppose cloture on any bill that lacks such reforms.”
Although Democrats currently control the Senate, a bill can still be held up by the Republicans if enough senators oppose ending debate, or cloture, filibustering the bill.
The White House has said the president would veto the GOP bill. Even before that, the House bill has little chance with the Democrats in control of the Senate.
To political insiders, what happens next is all about both sides’ desire to compromise.
“I think it's always better to enter willing to negotiate,” said Utah Policy editor and former state lawmaker Holly Richardson. “If you come in and you stay hardline and you don't have the votes to back you up, you're not going to be effective at all.”
Even as Congress faces a June 1 deadline to raise the debt ceiling or risk a national default, Richardson was still optimistic about the prospect of a deal.
“The federal legislators do this over and over,” she said. “I think that you'll have people who will come to the table, but there's always a little bit of gamesmanship. In the end, they'll hammer out a deal and everything will be fine.”