The clock is ticking on America’s debt, and Republicans lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to agree to their plan to raise the debt ceiling and rein in government spending.
Under the leadership of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Republicans issued a plan to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion, or until the end of March 2024, whichever comes first, provided that Congress and the president agree to significant cuts in government spending.
Biden, however, has continued to argue that Congress should raise the debt ceiling without conditions.
“If we default on our debt, it will be 100% Joe Biden’s responsibility,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., says, adding that it is the president’s job to “figure out how to raise the debt ceiling.”
Biden’s other option, Scott says, is to “figure out how to not have to raise the debt ceiling by living within our means.”
The U.S. already has hit the debt limit of $31.4 trillion, but the Treasury Department is using “extraordinary measures” to prevent defaulting on loans to the government. The Treasury Department says lawmakers have to act to raise the debt ceiling by the beginning of June to prevent risk of default.
Scott joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain why Republicans and Democrats are so divided in the debt ceiling debate and what will happen if Congress can’t reach an agreement with the president.
Also on today’s show, Scott talks about his recent trip to the southern border and what’s going to happen when Title 42 expires as scheduled Thursday.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: It is my pleasure today to welcome to the show Sen. Rick Scott of Florida. Senator, thanks for being with us.
Sen. Rick Scott: It’s always great to be with you.
Allen: Well, we are at a really critical point right now in America’s history. We have reached our debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion and the Treasury Department, they say that the White House and Congress have to come to some sort of agreement by the beginning of June in order for America to keep on paying its bills and not default on its debt. While Republicans have put forward a plan to both rein in spending and raise that debt ceiling, President Joe Biden, he says, “Nope, I just want to raise the debt ceiling, I don’t want to rein in spending.” But there has to be an agreement reached here.
So, is the president going to agree to Republicans’ plan?
Scott: If he cared about Americans, I mean, if you talk to Americans, what are they worried about right now? Inflation. OK, where do you get inflation? Government spending. … And think about how much money. I mean, the deficits this country’s running is staggering.
You don’t get to do that. Families all across our country, they don’t get to do that. They don’t get to just say, “Oh, I think I’ll just keep spending whatever I want. I’m sure I can go to the bank and they’ll raise my credit limit. And no, don’t worry that I can’t pay the interest. Doesn’t matter. I’ll just borrow some more money to pay the interest.”
The other thing Americans are worried about, they’re worried about their retirement and they’re worried about their medical bills. So if you stop and think about this, what should we be doing up here?
One, we should balance our budget. I mean, we should actually spend what we collect and actually lower taxes, give people back their money. No. 2, if we cared about retirement, we would do the exact same thing, balance the budget. We’re hurting retirement by all this inflation.
So you’re right, the House, [House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy put out a plan. The Freedom Caucus put out their ideas first and then the House put out their plan. So I’m very proud of what they did. They said, “We’re going to go to a path to have some fiscal sanity here where we balance the budget. We’re going to get rid of wasteful spending, we’re going to get people back to work. We’re going to grow this economy.”
So those things work. And so if Biden cared, he would show up. But Biden, [Senate Majority Leader] Schumer haven’t shown up.
Allen: Well, you yourself and 42 other Senate Republicans, you’ve written a letter saying that you-all in the Senate, the signers of the letter, you’re not going to raise the debt ceiling without significant cuts to spending, without really reining in so much of this out-of-control spending that we see in Washington, D.C. Do you think that the president hears you when you-all say that?
Scott: No. I mean, if he did, he would already be negotiating. Think about this. He’s known that there was a date certain coming up. Whether it was going to be June or July, he knew it was coming up. But since January, when we first knew that we’re going to have a problem earlier this year, he just said, “I’m not even going to talk to you. I’m not going to talk to you. I don’t care what you think.” And it takes the House passing something, the Senate to pass something, and the president to sign something. That’s what it takes.
… It’s not partisan. Everybody should be worried about inflation. Everybody should be worried about Americans’ retirement plan and their medical bills. The only way to do this is have a responsible debt increase.
So I hope that Biden and Schumer show up. What Schumer could do right now is take up the House bill and say, “We’re going to try to see if people like it. Let’s do amendments. If people want to improve it, let’s see how we can improve it.” But why doesn’t Chuck Schumer even want to have a vote on it? It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Allen: Well, Biden is certainly under pressure to move forward on this issue, to find resolution. His approval rating is the lowest it’s been during his presidency, just at 36%. Do you think that that low approval rating is going to put him under pressure to actually make some significant moves on this and to maybe find common ground with Republicans?
Scott: You would hope. But if you think about it, the whole year, his approval ratings continue to go down. This whole year people are fed up with his administration and he continues to sit there and say, “I don’t care what anybody else believes. We’re just going to go down this path of potential default.”
If we default on our debt, it will be 100% Joe Biden’s responsibility. He is the sitting president of the United States. When you’re the sitting president of the United States, it’s your job to figure out how to raise the debt ceiling. Or you could also figure out how to not have to raise the debt ceiling by living within our means. So he ought to figure out—the easiest thing is say, “Hey, I’m going to have to talk to you guys because I have a plan. We’re going to live within our means.”
Allen: Let’s follow that rabbit trail for a second of what happens if we don’t reach an agreement. Let’s say that right now it’s predicted sometime in June will be when the Treasury Department runs out of cash. We hit that point. No agreement has been made. What’s the result?
Scott: Well, they don’t actually run out of cash. What they do is they run out of spending power. So now they could, if they wanted to, they could say, “We’re going to pay off the interest on our debt,” because they have plenty of, we have revenues. We’re going to collect somewhere between $4.4—it looks like $4.4, $4.6 trillion this year. So we have plenty of revenues.
Then they just have to pick and choose which things they could pay with the revenues that we have. And then guess what? We’d have a balanced budget because they couldn’t spend any more than they collect.
No different than probably you have to lead your life, how most Americans lead their life. They say, “This is how much I make. This is how much I’ll spend.” I did this. I walked in as governor of Florida with a $4 billion budget deficit. The state of Florida had not lived within its means for any year for 20 years, and I balanced the budget every year as governor and paid off a third of the state debt.
Allen: Well, that’s something that we would love to see in America from the federal government.
Scott: It’s doable.
Allen: It’s doable.
Scott: You do it. We do it.
Allen: And we should expect the same that our government can do it. Because right now, as you shared in a recent graphic on social media, right now, if you divvied out all the debt, each and every American owns about $90,000 of that debt, if we all shared it. I mean, what does that mean for the future of our country? This doesn’t feel sustainable.
Scott: Here’s what doesn’t make sense. When you pass away, are you intending to leave a whole bunch of debt to your kids?
Allen: I sure hope not.
Scott: Or your grandkids? You hope not, right? Well, you can’t, you don’t leave debt to them. That’s not the way our laws work. We shouldn’t allow our federal government to do it either.
We should say we’re going to get rid of our debt. We’re going to pay off our debt over a period of time. We’re going to grow this economy faster. You can do it. I did it [in] Florida. I balanced the budget. I started paying off debt. I lowered taxes. And guess what? Our revenue skyrocketed because we added more jobs. People wanted to move to our state. So if we do the right things, we can balance this budget.
You just say, “This is my priority.” There’s a lot of nice-to-haves in life, but we don’t all get them every day. We have to work for them. And we ought to do the same thing here.
The things that we want, we ought to go to our taxpayers and say, “OK, this is what it would cost, and do you want to pay for that?” And if they don’t, … you say, “OK, we’re not going to do that.” Don’t lie to them and say, “Oh, it’s all free here.” It’s not. Somebody’s going to pay for this. You’d pay for it in higher taxes, either this generation or the next generation.
Allen: I want to take a few minutes and talk about what is happening at our southern border right now. On Thursday—there’s a measure known as Title 42. It’s a public health measure that was set in place during the COVID-19 pandemic that has allowed Border Patrol to continue expelling some illegal aliens from our southern border after they come into the country illegally. That ends on Thursday and it’s expected that we’re going to see new record highs for those crossing the border illegally.
You were just recently down at the southern border. You spoke to Border Patrol. What did you learn while you were down there about the ways that they are preparing for Title 42’s end?
Scott: Well, first, our Border Patrol, they’re brave. I just want to thank them [for] what they do. But they’re frustrated. Their job—and they want to do their job—is to secure the border to keep Americans safe.
It’s just like you lock your door at night, OK? Because you love whoever’s in that house, not because you don’t like the people around you. You’re just trying to be safe. That’s how our Border Patrol agents think about our border. We want to have a legal immigration process so we know who’s coming into our country.
And so, unfortunately, the Biden administration, Biden, and [Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro] Mayorkas have decided, “Let’s have an open border.” So here’s how the border works. It’s open. Anybody can walk across if they want. If, per chance, you run into Border Patrol, then they’ll look at your background—if they can find anything about you, because a lot of people throw their IDs on the Mexico side because they don’t want anybody to know who they are.
If they figure out you’re a criminal, then they’ll do whatever they can to try to deal with that. Or if you’re a terrorist. But if not, you’re just released, you’ll be taken wherever you want in this country and you’ll be allowed to stay in this country for, it appears forever because you’re supposed to show up years down the road.
And so we don’t know who’s coming in, but the numbers are staggering. Who’s coming? It’s just a completely open—it’s just completely open. All Border Patrol is doing now is they’re not securing the border. What they’re doing is they’re processing people.
Biden says he’s going to add 1,500 people from our military down there. They’re just to process people faster. This is all about getting people into our country faster, that we have no idea who they are. And by the way, they can come here without an ID. They’ll get an [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] arrest warrant and they can go on a commercial flight, sitting right next to you an hour later with no background checks, nothing.
Allen: We’re hearing that there’s already groups massing at the border, waiting to come across. What did you see while you were down there?
Scott: What I saw, we did an aerial tour and you just saw people coming across, walking, just walking across. Every time I’ve been down to the border, you just have people walking across and they generally know if they want to meet with Border Patrol, where they want to do it. If they don’t want to meet with Border Patrol, they come at night.
So we know so far, I think last year was 98, maybe something like 99 terrorists that have been caught. So you think the terrorists are out there trying to get caught? Probably not. So we know that the high percentage of people we’re not catching, they’re coming at night. And the cartels are smart. They surge a bunch of people in one area.
So think about what the Biden administration is saying. They’re saying they don’t care that 70,000 people died of fentanyl last year. They don’t care that criminals … are coming here and crime is up. They don’t care that Chinese spies are coming across our border. They don’t care that terrorists are getting through are open border.
And you can fly over. You can see fences that were half-finished, but they decided, even though we spent the money, not to finish it.
Also, I met with public safety from the state of Texas and they’re just as frustrated as Border Patrol. Just no security. They catch all these people. They’re causing crime in there, all across Texas. And the Biden administration does not care.
Allen: Well, we know that there needs to be an answer to address this crisis and Republicans in the House, they’ve put forward a plan that on Thursday they’re actually voting on a bill that will help to secure the border. It’ll do things like restart construction of the border wall. It’ll end catch and release. Yet it’s potentially going to be an uphill battle in the Senate. It’s expected that this bill will pass the House.
Scott: Probably, not potentially, will be. That was about the nicest way you could say it. Chuck Schumer will not bring it up. Let’s assume it passes the House. Chuck Schumer’s not going to come up with a border security bill.
I mean, I don’t get the Democrats. They should care about the fentanyl deaths. They should care about the crime coming into this country. They should care about the terrorists. But they don’t. So Chuck Schumer would not bring it up to this floor, so we won’t have a vote on it in the Senate. We could try and see if it’ll pass by unanimous consent. And it just takes one Democrat to block it. So that’s not going to happen.
So I don’t get it. I don’t get why the Democrats don’t care about our border. I think every one of us is happy with legal immigration because we want to continue to build the country that we believe in.
But I want people to come to this country that want to live our dream. I don’t need people that want to become dependent on government. I want people that want to come here and work hard, believe in capitalism, believe in the principles of our Constitution. I think those people should have an opportunity to come here, but they ought to do it in a legal manner.
I’m from an immigration state. We have a lot of people from Latin America in my state. But you know what? My experience is Floridians, they want legal immigration, not illegal immigration.
Allen: Hearing you say that the bill has no chance in the Senate, it won’t even be taken up, it leads to the question of, well, then are we in a situation where we’re just grinning and bearing it until we get new leadership in that might consider taking action? Because let’s say that we’re wrong here and ultimately, the Senate passes it. Already, the White House has said that Biden would veto this border bill. So where does that leave us?
Scott: Well, first off, I think it’s important that the House passes what Republicans believe in. OK? Because we need to tell the American public what we believe in. No. 2, we got to talk to the American public and say, “If you want this to pass, talk to your House members, whether they’re a Republican or Democrat, and then let the White House know you expect them to do their job. You expect a secure border. You expect them to follow the law. You expect them to follow our asylum laws in this country. You expect them to treat our Border Patrol with respect because the Border Patrol agents want to do their job.”
So if we do, hope springs eternal, we’ll see if Biden even—maybe if it’s even an effort to get reelected, he’ll start doing the right thing. But right now, it’s going to be millions of people are going to continue to come across our border illegally every year while Biden’s president.
Allen: Given the current situation at the border, should Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas be impeached?
Scott: First off, he should resign. I mean, I’ve called for his resignation. He has not done his job. It’s been clear. His job is to have a secure border. The border’s completely unsecure and he comes and testifies that it’s secure. That’s a complete lie. So I think he would do the right thing by resigning.
He has been a complete failure and whether it’s his decision to do that or Biden’s, he has done it, and so he has to take responsibility for 70,000 people dying of fentanyl. He’s got to take responsibility for the crime against American citizens by the people who have come here illegally across the border and the risk of a terrorist attack and the risk of what Chinese spies are going to do. He has to personally take that responsibility.
Now, if he doesn’t want to be responsible for that, he should resign.
Allen: The topics that we’ve talked about, the spending, out-of-control spending, our debt limit, what’s going on at the border are arguably two of the most critical and important issues that we face in this day and age. Any final thoughts or words before we let you go, Senator?
Scott: I think it’s really important for the public to show up. I think the public wants a secure border. I think the public wants inflation down. I think the public wants a government that can live within their means, so it doesn’t mess up the value of their retirement plan. I think the public expects the Congress to do their job. And I think that’s my expectation.
So I hope everybody out there will call their House and Senate member, Republican or Democrat, and say, “I expect you to responsibly raise a debt ceiling and start balancing the budget, and I expect you to do everything you can to get our border secure.”
Allen: Excellent. Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, thank you so much for your time. We appreciate you joining us today.
Scott: Great to be with you.
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