Biden used the first Oval Office speech of his presidency to declare victory after a bipartisan deal to raise the debt ceiling passed both chambers of Congress, preventing a debt default and economic chaos.
minute speech, the president praised White House negotiators and thanked Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield)
and his negotiators
for coming to a deal days before the Treasury was set to run out of money to pay the countrys bills.
Some Democrats had worried that the president had been too quiet during the weeks-long negotiations, allowing McCarthy to hog the media spotlight. But Friday’s prime-time speech from behind the Resolute Desk allowed him to speak directly to the American people not at a time of imminent crisis, but to, as he told the country, “report on a crisis averted.”
It was critical to reach an agreement, and its very good news for the American people.
No one got everything they wanted, but the American people got what they needed,” Biden said. “We averted an economic crisis an economic collapse.”
The president expects to sign the debt ceiling compromise into law on Saturday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday.
The legislation, which includes spending caps and some changes to energy permitting and social programs, passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly. Some progressive Democrats who voted against the deal cited concerns about what they characterized as debt ceiling “hostage taking,” or about the deal easing energy permitting and making changes to social programs such as SNAP, also known as food stamps. Members of the hard-right Freedom Caucus also opposed the bill, arguing that it had not gone far enough in slashing government spending.
The president could use a win. His approval ratings have been mired in the low 40s, and fell as negotiations over the debt ceiling intensified and fear of a catastrophic default rose. He tripped and fell on stage after addressing graduates at the United States Air Force Academy on Thursday. A White House aide later tweeted to assure the public that the 80-year-old president was “fine.”
Voters may not be paying close attention to the debt ceiling drama.
“Right now, people are probably moving on to planning summer vacations and being concerned about issues closer to home ,”
, a West Coast-based political consultant, told The Times. “The debt limit is very important for America and the economy. But its pretty obscure.”
But voters especially the Democrats and
that Biden needs in order to win reelection do tend to tell pollsters that they want their leaders to compromise. According to a February PBS NewsHour/NPR/Marist poll, 70% of Americans believe it is more important to compromise toward solutions than it is to stand on principle in the face of a gridlock. That figure was highest among Democrats and
, who said they support compromise at rates of 83% and 69% respectively.
“Most voters want leaders from both parties to work together,” Kapolczynski said. “They also want leaders to stand up for what they believe in. Sometimes those two things are in conflict. But in this case, Biden felt he got a deal that did both.”
Biden’s potential Republican competitors have blasted the deal. Former President Trump has said he would have allowed a default before conceding what Republicans did; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the agreement would leave the country “careening toward bankruptcy.” Former Vice President Mike Pence said the deal “uses Washington smoke and mirror games to make small reforms.”
Presidents have historically used the Oval Office to deliver messages of immense importance during times of national crisis and tragedy. President George W. Bush addressed the country from the office soon after the September 11 attacks. President George H.W. Bush famously used his first Oval Office speech to deliver a message about the dangers of drugs while holding a bag of what he described as crack cocaine.
President Obama gave his first Oval Office address in June 2010 after a visit to the site of a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Before Biden’s speech Friday, the last Oval Office address was on Jan. 13, 2021, when Trump condemned violence in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and called for calm ahead of Bidens inauguration, an event he did not acknowledge or attend.