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McCarthy defends work requirements amid debt limit talks

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WASHINGTON (NewsNation) — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., on Thursday defended the GOP’s work requirement stipulation in their bill that would raise the government’s legal debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion in exchange for steep spending cuts.

“(Work requirements) lifted people up more in to have jobs than ever before it helped the supply chain,” McCarthy told NewsNation’s Joe Khalil. “And the ‘controversy’ here is, do we believe in the work ethic or not?”

Work requirements for millions of Americans receiving Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP benefits) — also known as food stamps — has long been a goal for the party. And it’s one being met with fierce opposition from Democrats.

President Joe Biden has threatened to veto the Republican package, which has almost no chance of passing the Democratic Senate anyway, and the president has so far refused to negotiate over the debt ceiling, which the White House insists must be lifted with no strings to ensure America pays its bills.

“What we have done is we’ve passed the bill through the House. But what we’ve also done is helped curb inflation, grow our economy and make us stronger,” said McCarthy. “So why wouldn’t you do that? I showed him (Biden) the plan that passed. Let’s see now what they do.”

Passage of the sprawling 320-page package in the House is only the start of what is expected to become a weekslong political slog as the president and Congress try to work out a compromise that would allow the nation’s debt, now at $31 trillion, to be lifted to allow further borrowing and stave off a fiscal crisis.

The nation has never defaulted on its debt, and the House Republican majority hopes to maneuver Biden into a corner with its plan to roll back federal spending to fiscal 2022 levels and cap future spending increases at 1% over the next decade, among other changes.

McCarthy worked nonstop to unite his fractious Republican majority, the “five families” including the conservative Freedom Caucus and others, making post-midnight changes in the House Rules Committee in the crush to win over holdouts.

Democrats derided the Republican plan as a “ransom note,” a “shakedown” and “an unserious bill” that was courting financial danger.

But as McCarthy worked to shore up support, some of the most conservative rank-and-file Republican members who have never voted for a debt ceiling increase in their quest to slash spending said they were preparing to do just that, rallying behind the speaker’s strategy to push Biden to the negotiating table.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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