Sen. Mike Lee said Sunday that Senate Republicans are firmly behind the debt bill that the Kevin McCarthy-led House recently passed, giving McCarthy leverage in his Tuesday meeting with President Joe Biden.
Speaking on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures With Maria Bartiromo,” the Utah Republican said: “As Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House, meets with the White House, it’s imperative that he arrive in a position of negotiating power.”
Lee noted that “we’ve got 43 Republicans who have a signed a letter,” including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, enough to block Democratic legislation on the debt ceiling. Lee said two other Republicans supported the letter but wouldn’t sign “for strategic reasons.”
The letter, which was sent to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said Senate Republicans backed House Republicans in supporting “spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling.”
Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate but not enough to prevent a Republican filibuster on legislation.
“Whenever you’ve got 41 senators who are unwilling to bring debate to a close on any legislation, it cannot pass. We’ve now got more than enough to stop exactly the kind of legislation that Joe Biden wants,” he said to Bartiromo.
Lee added: “What that means is that the White House is going to come to the table and enter into real talks with the House Republicans, starting with Speaker Kevin McCarthy,” Lee said.
House Republicans passed legislation on April 24 that would allow for the debt ceiling to be raised but which would also attempt to put the brakes on federal spending in the future, as well as roll back or cut specific programs. The vote was 217-215.
Biden and other Democrats have said they are open to budget negotiations but want the debt ceiling treated as a separate issue, as it has been in the past. The expectation is that the the federal government will bump up against the debt ceiling at the start of June.
Bartiromo asked Lee if he was confident that McConnell and other Senate Republicans would stand firm. Lee said he expected they would.
“Even if we lost one or two here or there, we’d still be fine,” Lee said, “and I don’t think we’re going to the lose any of them.”