Lockheed Martin CEO hails Pentagon budget boost in debt limit deal

The head of the top weapons contractor in the United States said Thursday that he's happy with the debt ceiling agreement negotiated by the congressional Republicans and the Biden White House, a deal that proposes a military budget increase while imposing two years of caps on other discretionary federal spending—impacting funding for education, housing, and more.

James Taiclet, the CEO of Lockheed Martin, said at a conference that the bill now awaiting President Joe Biden's signature is "as good an outcome as our industry or our company could ask for at this point," noting that it calls for "3% growth for two years in defense where other areas of the budget are being reduced."

"I think we're in a real strong position at this point," said Taiclet, adding that "there's sufficient funding in the president's budget."

Biden's $886 billion military spending request for fiscal year 2024—a $28 billion increase over current levels—is the topline military budget number set by the debt ceiling legislation, though war hawks in both parties are already exploring ways to dump even more money into the Pentagon's overflowing coffers.

If finalized in the appropriations process, military outlays will account for close to 56% of the U.S. federal government's total discretionary spending in fiscal year 2024, Lindsay Koshgarian of the National Priorities Project noted Thursday.

"This represents a massive shift of resources away from domestic programs and toward the military: the already-gargantuan military budget will increase by $28 billion (3.3%), while domestic spending will take a cut of $63 billion (8.2%)," Koshgarian wrote. "Cuts to many domestic programs will need to go deeper, because domestic spending includes veterans' programs, which are protected from cuts in the current deal."

"The only reason there’s a budget deal at all right now is because House Republicans threatened to tank the economy by refusing to allow the U.S. to pay its bills unless they got cuts for programs they don't like," she added. "They succeeded, and as others have shown, the people to pay the price will be the poorest and most down on their luck. Worse, the current deal could set a new precedent for more of the same: unnecessary military increases while domestic programs are slashed."

Lockheed Martin, one of the contractors that has been price-gouging the Department of Defense for years, is poised to be one of the top beneficiaries of the larger Pentagon budget—much of which will likely wind up benefiting private companies.

As Responsible Statecraft's Eli Clifton reported Thursday, Lockheed "received 73 percent of its net sales from the U.S. government in 2022 and invested $13 million in lobbying the federal government."

"Their lobbyists heavily focus their efforts on the defense budget," Clifton added, citing OpenSecrets.

William Hartung, senior research fellow at Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, said Friday that the newly passed debt limit deal "unnecessarily privileges the Pentagon over other essential programs."

"There's no reason to exclude the Pentagon from the budget freeze," he added. "Congress should push the current proposed military spending total of $886 billion back to FY2023 levels in the appropriations process that will play out over the course of this year."

'Wealthy tax cheats and creepy billionaires': GOP costs nation an estimated $40 billion with debt deal IRS cuts

A preliminary analysis from the Congressional Budget Office released Thursday estimates that the $21.4 billion in IRS funding cuts that Republicans and the Biden White House agreed to enact as part of their debt ceiling agreement would result in $40.4 billion in lost tax revenue—adding to the federal budget deficit.

The CBO provided its estimate to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who said in a statement that "after holding our entire economy hostage and threatening to trigger a global financial meltdown, Republicans protected wealthy tax cheats and creepy billionaires."

"Republicans' fealty to their megadonors is on full display, as is the hypocrisy of forcing cuts to the IRS that add $19 billion to the deficit," said Whitehouse, the chair of the Senate Budget Committee. "By contrast, President Biden's budget would have cracked down on wealthy tax cheats while making pro-growth investments in workers, families, and small business—and reduced the deficit by $3 trillion."

"There's a sharp contrast there," the senator added, "and the best explanation is Republican fealty to their dark-money megadonors."

The debt ceiling legislation that is now headed to President Joe Biden's desk after the Senate passed it late Thursday includes $1.4 billion in cuts to IRS funding that was aimed at providing the agency with the resources to pursue rich tax evaders, who cost the federal government tens of billions of dollars in revenue each year.

By itself, the $1.4 billion IRS cut would add $900 million to the deficit over a 10-year period, according to a separate CBO analysis released earlier this week.

But the White House and Republican leaders also reached a tentative side deal to cut $20 billion more from the chronically funding-starved agency over the next two fiscal years and use the money to prevent cuts to other federal spending programs.

"In a fight they claimed was about shrinking the debt, they decided to prioritize rolling back IRS enforcement funding in a move that will actually increase the debt by billions."

Having secured an agreement to slash IRS funding, House Republicans are reportedly planning to introduce a massive tax-cut package later this month that includes provisions the CBO says would add roughly $3.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade.

"House Republicans have proven once again that there is nothing they care about more than making sure the ultra-rich can avoid paying taxes," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Wednesday. "In a fight they claimed was about shrinking the debt, they decided to prioritize rolling back IRS enforcement funding in a move that will actually increase the debt by billions. They have gone to bat to protect wealthy tax cheats, and won."

The $20 billion in IRS cuts—a quarter of the $80 billion funding boost the agency received under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)—aren't a sure thing.

As The American Prospect's David Dayen explains, the debt ceiling legislation headed for President Joe Biden's desk "only creates topline numbers, baselines for future budget appropriations that have yet to be written."

If the spending bills don't pass by January 1, 2024, Dayen notes, "the IRS fund transfer, which is not in the deal and is just presumed as part of the appropriation, would not happen."

Jon Whiten, communications director for the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, wrote in a blog post on Thursday that the funding "is critical to allowing the IRS to do one of its most important jobs: crack down on tax cheating by the extremely wealthy and by big corporations."

"The IRS has had a hard time doing this lately because its enforcement budget was cut by about a fourth between 2010 and 2021," Whiten noted. "This led to 40% fewer revenue agents—the auditors uniquely qualified to examine the returns of high-income individuals and corporations."

"Ironically, for Republican leaders who have spent months clamoring about the deficit," Whiten continued, "these cuts to the IRS will increase the deficit by reducing the revenue the agency is able to collect from those who owe," Whiten continued.

"Perhaps it's less ironic and more on-brand," he added, "given that these same Republican leaders want to quickly pivot to pushing through more big tax cuts that will disproportionately reward wealthy families and corporations."

Here are the progressives who voted against the GOP's debt ceiling 'extortion scheme'

Nearly 40 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus broke with the majority of their House Democratic colleagues late Wednesday to vote against the debt ceiling agreement negotiated by President Joe Biden and Republican leaders.

The legislation, which would lift the debt ceiling until January 2025 and enact painful caps on non-military federal spending, passed the GOP-controlled House by a vote of 314 to 117, with 165 Democrats joining 149 Republicans in supporting the measure.

The bill's passage came after weeks of talks between the White House—which repeatedly said it would not negotiate over the debt ceiling—and Republicans who manufactured the standoff to pursue austerity for low-income Americans, gifts for rich tax cheats, and handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

While Republicans didn't get anything close to what they called for in legislation they passed in late April, progressives who voted against the bill on Wednesday said the final agreement will harm vulnerable people and the planet by imposing new work requirements on aid recipients and approving the Mountain Valley Pipeline—a top priority of fossil fuel industry ally Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).

Progressives also raised alarm over a provision that would codify the end of the student loan payment pause, setting the stage for a disaster if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Biden administration's debt cancellation plan.

"I cannot vote for a bill that guts key environmental protections and greenlights dirty fossil fuel projects for corporate polluters who are poisoning our communities, pushes our residents deeper into poverty by implementing cruel and ineffective work requirements for our low-income neighbors who rely on SNAP and TANF for food and housing, terminates the student loan payment pause, and slashes IRS funding to make it easier for the rich to cheat on their taxes," Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said in a statement.

"We cannot continue to capitulate to a far-right Republican Party and their extreme demands while they inflict policy violence on working-class people, gut our bedrock environmental protections, and decimate our planet," Tlaib added, referring to the bill's work requirements for food aid.

In total, 36 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) voted against the legislation:

Reps. Tlaib, Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Chuy García (D-(Ill.), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Jared Huffman (D-Calif.), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.), Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.), Val Hoyle (D-Ore.), Juan Vargas (D-Calif.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), Jasmine Crockett (D-Texas), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.).

But the CPC members who joined Republicans in voting yes on the bill, including prominent progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), outnumbered those who opposed it.

Jayapal, the CPC chair, said Wednesday that she could not in good conscience be part of the Republican Party's "extortion scheme" by voting for legislation that "rips food assistance away from poor people and disproportionately Black and brown women, pushes forward pro-corporate permitting policies and a pipeline in direct violation of the community's input, and claws back nearly 25% of the funding Democrats allocated for the IRS to go after wealthy tax cheats."

Bush, who represents St. Louis, added that "this agreement, whose worst elements are undoubtedly the fault of MAGA Republicans who shamefully took our economy hostage, pairs raising the debt limit with many policies that will harm our most vulnerable communities."

"I am disgusted with the chief hostage taker Kevin McCarthy and his MAGA insurrectionist conference for threatening economic catastrophe," said the Missouri Democrat. "For the good of our country, and to prevent the GOP from politicizing the debt ceiling to harm our communities moving forward, I believe we must eliminate the debt ceiling altogether."

The bill now heads to the Senate, where lawmakers are expected to act before the June 5 debt-limit deadline set by the Treasury Department.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the lone Senate member of the CPC, announced ahead of Wednesday's House vote that he will oppose the legislation, calling it "a bill that takes vital nutrition assistance away from women, infants, children, and seniors while refusing to ask billionaires who have never had it so good to pay a penny more in taxes."

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the measure's new work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients would put nearly 750,000 low-income adults between the ages of 50 and 54 at risk of losing food aid.

"The fact of the matter is that this bill is totally unnecessary," Sanders said. "The president has the authority and the ability to eliminate the debt ceiling today by invoking the 14th Amendment. I look forward to the day when he exercises this authority and puts an end, once and for all, to the outrageous actions of the extreme right-wing to hold our entire economy hostage in order to get what they want."

Pressley files amendment to strike 'reckless' student loan provision from debt limit bill

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley on Tuesday filed an amendment to remove the section of the debt ceiling bill that would codify an end to the federal student loan payment pause and potentially compromise the Biden administration's authority to implement another moratorium at a later date.

Pressley (D-Mass.), a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a vocal supporter of student debt cancellation, said the payment freeze "has been an essential lifeline for workers and families struggling to make ends meet" during the coronavirus pandemic and the associated economic turmoil.

"My amendment would protect student borrowers while also affirming the president's clear legal authority to implement payment pauses, broad-based debt cancellation, and other critical relief measures," said Pressley. "Republicans continue to play games with our economy, with disregard for our most vulnerable families."

House Republicans originally demanded a full repeal of President Joe Biden's pending student debt cancellation plan as part of any deal to raise the debt limit. But the measure that ultimately emerged from negotiations between the White House and the GOP would only cement into law the Biden administration's pledge to end the student loan repayment pause, which has been extended eight times since it was first implemented early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Campaigners say the provision could be disastrous for borrowers across the country, particularly if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the Biden administration's debt cancellation plan.

If approved in its current form, the debt ceiling bill would cut off the payment pause 60 days after June 30, 2023 unless Congress greenlights another extension.

The bill, which the House is expected to vote on as soon as Wednesday evening, states that "the secretary of education may not use any authority to implement an extension" of the payment pause, but Education Secretary Miguel Cardona insisted over the weekend that the Biden administration will retain "ability to pause student loan payments should that be necessary in future emergencies."

In a statement on Tuesday, the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) warned that the debt limit measure would bind the federal government to "a reckless and aggressive timeline to restart loan payments, irrespective of the outcome of a pair of cases before the U.S. Supreme Court that will determine whether President Biden's August 2022 plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt can go into effect."

Mike Pierce, SBPC executive director, said the payment pause "remains one of the most durably popular pieces of economic policy because the American people recognize what Washington has long struggled to understand: the student loan system is broken and the burden of student debt creates a barrier to economic opportunity for all of us."

According to a survey conducted earlier this month by Data for Progress, more than 60% of U.S. voters would support an extension of the payment pause through the end of 2024 if the Supreme Court sides with right-wing challengers and strikes down the Biden administration's student debt cancellation plan.

"The debt limit deal raises the stakes even higher for millions of working people with student debt," Pierce said Tuesday. "We applaud Congresswoman Pressley for standing up for borrowers and their families and fighting to preserve this critical economic lifeline."

DeSantis hit with FEC complaint over 'brazen' violation of campaign finance law

A campaign finance watchdog on Tuesday filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, alleging that the 2024 Republican presidential candidate unlawfully transferred or directed more than $80 million from a state political action committee to a super PAC supporting his White House bid.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) says in its complaint that the reported transfer of funds from the state committee—formerly known as "Friends of Ron DeSantis"—to the pro-DeSantis super PAC Never Back Down runs afoul of rules barring political candidates from spending so-called "soft money" on federal elections.

"For over twenty years, the Federal Election Campaign Act ('FECA') has prohibited federal candidates like DeSantis, along with their agents and entities they establish, finance, maintain, or control, from spending 'soft money'—including, e.g., money raised by nonfederal committees and organizations that are not subject to federal campaign finance laws—in connection with a federal election," reads the complaint.

"The transfer of this colossal sum from a state PAC that DeSantis established and used to raise over $225 million, to a federal committee that has spent, and plans to continue spending, millions of dollars supporting DeSantis' own campaign is a brazen attempt to circumvent the federal campaign finance rules that are crucial to preventing corruption and establishing transparency about how our federal elections are financed," the filing continues.

CLC announced the complaint just days after DeSantis formally launched his presidential campaign in a glitch-filled Twitter livestream with billionaire Elon Musk.

Saurav Ghosh, CLC's director of federal campaign finance reform, said in a statement that "soft money undermines federal campaign finance laws because it is, by definition, money raised and spent outside the scope of those laws."

"We're talking about funds from billionaires and corporate special interests who could exert massive influence over the candidate they are financing," said Ghosh. "Laws banning these funds from being used to seek federal office are there for a reason—to prevent corruption, promote transparency, and ensure that wealthy special interests can’t rig the system even further in their favor."

The FEC is evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, and the agency has not acted on recent complaints alleging campaign finance violations by high-profile political figures—including former President Donald Trump, also a 2024 candidate.

The DeSantis campaign insists it has not done anything illegal because the governor is no longer officially associated with the state PAC that until recently bore his name. The committee is now called the "Empower Parents PAC" and chaired by Republican state Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, a DeSantis ally.

Critics have scoffed at the notion that the state PAC's decision to shift tens of millions of dollars to a pro-DeSantis super PAC—which is barred by law from coordinating directly with any candidate—would be made independently of DeSantis. Never Back Down is run by some of the Florida governor's "closest friends," according toThe Wall Street Journal.

"The idea that Ron DeSantis is no longer controlling or associated with 'Friends of Ron DeSantis' is absurd," journalist Judd Legum wrote earlier this month in his newsletter Popular Information. "And the notion that the money held by Friends of Ron DeSantis will decide to transfer its funds to Never Back Down independent of DeSantis is not credible."

In its complaint, CLC notes that on the same day that DeSantis launched his campaign, "Never PAC confirmed that it has received or will soon receive $80 million from Friends of Ron DeSantis, and that the super PAC had factored that major contribution—comprising 40% of its budget—into their plans."

The complaint points to a May New York Timesstory reporting that top officials with Never Back Down said they "expected to have an overall budget of at least $200 million, including more than $80 million to be transferred from an old DeSantis state political account."

"Indeed, for weeks before DeSantis’s candidacy announcement, Never PAC officials had reportedly been 'telling donors they intend to push the bounds' of super PAC support, laying out plans to raise and spend 'about $200 million' to support DeSantis' presidential campaign, including 'the more than $85 million that DeSantis has in a state fundraising account,' i.e., Friends of Ron DeSantis," the complaint states. "Never PAC has been using and/or reportedly intends to use this soft money in connection with a federal election by making over $944,000 in independent expenditures supporting DeSantis."

Further making a mockery of the campaign finance regime ushered in by the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, the pro-DeSantis super PAC has reportedly "raised $500,000 into a separate draft committee that is expected to be transferred directly to [the Florida governor's presidential] campaign in the coming days."

CBS Newsreported over the weekend that Never Back Down "has been encouraging donors to contribute online to the 'Draft DeSantis 2024 Fund,' a super PAC created in early March to house money from DeSantis donors until his campaign launch. Super PACs can raise unlimited funds, but they are generally considered expenditure-only, meaning they cannot contribute directly to a candidate."

Ghosh, a former FEC enforcement attorney, expressed dismay over the fundraising scheme in a series of tweets on Sunday.

"Super PACs—required by law to remain 'independent' of candidates—are now raising money for presidential campaigns. What a time to be alive," Ghosh wrote. "When the Supreme Court, in Citizens United, struck down longstanding campaign finance laws and opened the door to massive outside spending and super PACs, the justices said this spending would not cause corruption because it would be independent of candidates."

"So much for that," he added.

Progressives condemn Biden-GOP debt ceiling deal as 'cruel and shortsighted'


The text of the legislation, titled the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023, is now available here.


Progressive economists and advocates warned that the tentative debt ceiling agreement reached Saturday by the White House and Republican leaders would needlessly gash nutrition aid, rental assistance, education programs, and more—all while making it easier for the wealthy to avoid taxes.

The deal, which now must win the support of both chambers of Congress, reportedly includes two years of caps on non-military federal spending, sparing a Pentagon budget replete with staggering waste and abuse.

The Associated Pressreported that the deal "would hold spending flat for 2024 and increase it by 1% for 2025," not keeping pace with inflation.

The agreement would also impose new work requirements on some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) while scaling back recently approved IRS funding, a gift to rich tax cheats.

In exchange for the spending cuts and work requirements, Republican leaders have agreed to lift the debt ceiling until January 1, 2025—a tradeoff that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is pitching as a victory to his caucus, which includes far-right members who have demanded more aggressive austerity.

President Joe Biden, for his part, called the deal "a compromise, which means not everyone gets what they want."

"After inflation eats its share, flat funding will result in fewer households accessing rental assistance, fewer kids in Head Start, and fewer services for seniors."

Lindsay Owens, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, said in a statement Saturday night that "this is a punishing deal made worse only by the fact that there was no reason for President Biden to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy over whether or not the United States government should pay its bills," alluding to the president's executive authority.

"After inflation eats its share, flat funding will result in fewer households accessing rental assistance, fewer kids in Head Start, and fewer services for seniors," said Owens. "The deal represents the worst of conservative budget ideology; it cuts investments in workers and families, adds onerous and wasteful new hurdles for families in need of support, and protects the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations from paying their fair share in taxes."

The agreement comes days before the U.S. is, according to the Treasury Department, set to run out of money to pay its obligations, imperiling Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid payments and potentially hurling the entire global economy into chaos.

House Republicans have leveraged those alarming possibilities to secure painful federal spending cuts and aid program changes that could leave more people hungry, sick, and unable to afford housing, critics said.

"For no real reason at all, hungry people are set to lose food while tax cheats get a free pass," wrote Angela Hanks, chief of programs at Demos.

While legislative text has not yet been released, the deal would reportedly impose work requirements on adult SNAP recipients without dependents up to the age of 54, increasing the current age limit of 49. Policy analysts and anti-hunger activists have long decried SNAP time limits and work requirements as immoral and ineffective at boosting employment. (Most adult SNAP recipients already work.)

"The SNAP changes are nominally extending work requirements to ages 50 to 54. In reality, especially as the new rule is implemented, this is just an indiscriminate cull of a bunch of 50- to 54-year-olds from SNAP who won't realize there are new forms they need to fill out," said Matt Bruenig, founder of the People's Policy Project.

Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, wrote on Twitter that the agreement is "cruel and shortsighted," pointing to the work requirements and real-term cuts to rental assistance "during an already worsening homelessness crisis."

"House Rs held our nation's lowest-income people hostage in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling," Yentel continued. "The debt ceiling 'deal' could lead to tens of thousands of families losing rental assistance... Expanding ineffective work requirements and putting time limits on food assistance adds salt to the wound, further harming some of the lowest-income and most marginalized people in our country."

The White House and Republican leaders also reportedly agreed to some permitting reforms that climate groups have slammed as a boon for the fossil fuel industry. According toThe New York Times, the agreement "includes measures meant to speed environmental reviews of certain energy projects," though the scope of the changes is not yet clear.

And while the deal doesn't appear to include a repeal of Biden's student debt cancellation plan—which is currently before the U.S. Supreme Court—it does reportedly contain a provision that would cement the end of the student loan repayment pause, drawing fury from debt relief campaigners.

The deal must now get through Congress, a difficult task given potentially significant opposition from progressive lawmakers who are against attacks on aid programs and Republicans who want steeper cuts.

As the Times reported, "Lawmakers in the House Freedom Caucus were privately pillorying the deal on Saturday night, and the Congressional Progressive Caucus had already begun to fume about it even before negotiators finalized the agreement."

Amy Hanauer, executive director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, said Sunday that "it's a relief to see that congressional leaders and the president have come to an agreement to raise the debt limit and avert an economic disaster."

"But by instituting work requirements for critical assistance programs and rescinding important funding to crack down on wealthy tax cheats, this deal will rig the economy even more in favor of the most well-off Americans while failing to fix the real structural problems that led to the current debt crisis in the first place," said Hanauer. "The deal avoids the elephant in the room: it includes no new revenues even though tax cuts of the past few decades were a primary driver of deficit growth."

"And next up, many Republican lawmakers want to double down on tax cuts by pushing through many more tax cuts that would most help wealthy families and corporations," Hanauer added. "They should do the opposite."

Democratic Senators rip corporate lobby for 'cheerleading' GOP default threat and tax cuts

The Republican Party's debt-ceiling hostage scheme has benefited from the support of the United States' largest corporate lobbying organization, which has given its stamp of approval to the GOP's push for major federal spending cuts, punitive new work requirements for aid programs, and permitting changes sought by the fossil fuel industry.

While House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) office has reportedly not met with representatives of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during the debt ceiling standoff, a representative of the powerful business group said earlier this week that such a meeting would be pointless given that the Chamber and the GOP are so closely aligned.

Neil Bradley, the Chamber's chief policy officer, toldPolitico earlier this week that a meeting with McCarthy would be a "cheerleading session."

"I see the relationship as respectful, so I'm not worried about wasting his time to come in and say, 'Look how much I agree with you,'" said Bradley, who previously served as McCarthy's deputy chief of staff.

In a letter to the Chamber's chief executive on Friday, a trio of Democratic senators led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) slammed Bradley's remarks and demanded to know "how the Chamber justifies supporting the Republican agenda of continued tax cuts for the wealthy, while cheerleading for threats to impose a default and austerity for everyone else."

"Instead of pressing the speaker to drop his radical demands and pass a clean debt limit increase, Bradley noted that the Chamber has pressed the White House to come to a bipartisan agreement with McCarthy," the letter reads. "Indeed, Bradley noted that the Chamber is aligned with House Republicans on their debt ceiling demands, including on spending caps, work requirements, and energy permitting."

Warren, joined by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), accused the Chamber of fully backing the GOP's "shameless hypocrisy" by lobbying for tax breaks that Republicans are expected to include in a tax cut package coming sometime next month.

"The American people deserve to understand why you are supporting even more deficit-busting tax giveaways for giant corporations, while also cheerleading Republican demands to inflict painful, job-killing austerity on everyone else in a pretense of 'fiscal responsibility,'" the senators wrote, demanding to know how much the Chamber has spent on tax-related lobbying this year and what discussions the group has had with Republicans on the House's tax-writing committee.

According to OpenSecrets, the Chamber has spent more than $19 million total on federal lobbying so far this year—the most of any organization. The Chamber says it has met with more than 150 Republican and Democratic lawmakers throughout the debt ceiling fight, which GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) publicly described as a hostage situation.

The Democratic senators' letter came as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that the federal government will run out of money to meet its obligations by June 5 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.

The Washington Postreported Friday that White House and GOP negotiators are "closing in on an agreement that would raise the debt ceiling by two years—a key priority of the Biden administration—while also essentially freezing government spending on domestic programs and slightly increasing funding for the military and veterans affairs."

When accounting for inflation, keeping non-military spending flat would mean potentially significant real-term cuts to key aid programs, from nutrition assistance to housing.

The Chamber has openly endorsed the GOP push for spending caps and warned President Joe Biden against using his 14th Amendment authority to unilaterally prevent a default, claiming such a move would be "as economically calamitous as a default."

On Friday, a top Treasury Department official said the White House will not invoke its 14th Amendment authority to continue paying the nation's bills.

Sanders says cuts to aid programs should be 'off the table' as White House and GOP near deal

Sen. Bernie Sanders said late Thursday that cuts to aid programs for vulnerable people should be "off the table" entirely as Republican negotiators and the Biden White House reportedly closed in on a deal that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a two-year cap on non-military discretionary spending.

Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, toldCNN's Anderson Cooper that Republicans have engaged in "an outrageous display of extremist politics" by "holding hostage the entire world economy unless they get what they want."

"Right now in America, you got a middle class which is shrinking, you got 60% of our people living paycheck-to-paycheck, childcare system in disarray, healthcare system collapsing, housing—all over the country people can't afford housing," Sanders said. "You don't cut programs that working people desperately need."

The senator appeared on the network shortly after The New York Timesreported that top White House officials and GOP lawmakers were nearing an agreement that would cut non-military discretionary spending or keep it roughly at this year's levels—a real-term cut when accounting for inflation.

Under the emerging deal, the debt ceiling would be raised for two years, temporarily preventing an economy-wrecking default.

According to the Times, the deal would "roll back $10 billion of the $80 billion Congress approved last year for an IRS crackdown on high earners and corporations that evade taxes, though that provision was still under discussion."

"As the deal stood on Thursday, the IRS money would essentially shift to nondefense discretionary spending, allowing Democrats to avoid further cuts in programs like education and environmental protection, according to people familiar with the pending agreement," the Times reported. "The plan had yet to be finalized, and the bargainers continued to haggle over crucial details that could make or break any deal."

Sanders told Cooper on Thursday that all he knows of the possible deal is what he read in the Times, and that "it may be right, it may be wrong."

The senator stressed that "there are ways that you can cut government spending without doing it on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country" and slammed Republicans for stonewalling efforts to raise taxes on the wealthy, rein in out-of-control military spending, and slash prescription drug costs.

"It's not good enough for them to say, 'Oh, we get huge campaign contributions from billionaires, we don't want to tax them. Oh, we love the military-industrial complex, we don't want to cut military spending. Off the table,'" Sanders said. "Well, it's not off the table. What should be off the table are children in America, where we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country. That should be off the table. The needs of elderly people who are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs—that should be off the table."

Asked about his call for President Joe Biden to consider invoking the 14th Amendment to avert a catastrophic default, Sanders said such a move would easily be preferable to "the Republican approach" of "massive cuts for the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor."

"If the Republicans are prepared to hold the entire world economy hostage and say, 'Hey Mr. President, you've got no alternative but to make massive cuts to programs for vulnerable people—you have no alternative.' Well, the president does have an alternative."

Sanders added that allowing Republicans to "get away with holding the economy hostage" would set "a precedent for years to come."

"GOP wants to add bureaucratic red tape to make it even harder for people who are hungry to get food assistance."

It's still far from clear that Republicans and the White House will strike a debt ceiling agreement before June 1, the day the Treasury Department says the government could run out of money to pay its obligations. A number of key disputes remain, including the GOP push for work requirements for aid programs—an effort that has drawn strong pushback from progressives.

"GOP wants to add bureaucratic red tape to make it even harder for people who are hungry to get food assistance that averages only about $6/day. Really?" Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Thursday. "None of this saves any money. It's just cruel. POTUS must reject these demands in any negotiation."

It's also not certain that any eventual deal can gain enough support to get through Congress, with far-right Republicans threatening to tank an agreement that doesn't enact sufficiently steep federal spending cuts.

House Democrats, too, are reportedly unhappy with the emerging outlines of the deal.

According toPunchbowl, the top three House Democrats—Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.)—warned the White House on Thursday that "it can't just assume 80 to 100 Democrats will back any Biden-McCarthy deal."

One unnamed Democratic aide told the outlet that the deal currently in the works is "'shitty enough' that Democrats don't feel compelled to back it and it's not good enough for the GOP to bring 200 Republicans on board."

GOP plans to unveil deficit-exploding tax cuts for the rich 2 weeks after debt limit deadline

With the U.S. careening toward a default crisis that they manufactured, House Republicans are reportedly crafting a major tax cut package that would overwhelmingly benefit the rich and corporations while blowing a multitrillion-dollar hole in the federal deficit.

The fresh push for tax cuts, according to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), further shows that "this hostage crisis has never been about deficits for the GOP."

"It has always been about wealth transfer—taking away food and healthcare from the poor and middle class to give away $3 trillion more in tax cuts to their rich friends," Omar, the deputy chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, tweeted Tuesday.

Politico reported earlier this week that Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee hope to finish work on their emerging tax legislation by June 16, just over two weeks after the so-called "X-date"—the day on which the Treasury Department expects the federal government to run out of money to cover its obligations unless Congress raises the debt limit or President Joe Biden acts unilaterally.

"Key parts of the [tax cut] package... will likely include a full restoration of research and development deductions, full bonus depreciation, removing caps on business interest expensing, and a doubling of the $1.08 million limitation on the section 179 deduction (which, like bonus depreciation, allows a company to deduct an asset's cost up-front)," Politico noted.

The outlet added that Rep. Vern Buchanan's (R-Fla.) legislation aimed at making the 2017 Trump-GOP tax cuts for individuals and some businesses permanent "also has a strong likelihood of getting marked up in a broader package." The bill, known as the TCJA Permanency Act, currently has nearly 100 Republican co-sponsors in the House.

Buchanan, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, personally benefited from the 2017 tax law that he's working to extend.

"Republicans are holding our economy hostage because they want to cut programs for working families," Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said Tuesday. "Their next big move? Massive tax cuts for their rich corporate buddies. They may call it fiscal responsibility—I call it extortion."

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated last week that extending the individual provisions of the 2017 tax cuts—which are currently set to expire in 2025—would add $2.5 trillion to the deficit over the next decade. The original law made the cut to the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% permanent.

"The hypocrisy of Republicans in Washington is truly breathtaking," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a Fox News op-ed on Wednesday. "Over and over again, we hear from the Republican leadership about how deeply concerned they are about the large deficit and national debt that we have. Really?"

"If that's the case," Sanders asked, "why are they pushing for an extension of the Trump tax breaks that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and large corporations and would increase the federal deficit by $3.5 trillion?"

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimated earlier this month that just 1% of the benefits of the TCJA Permanency Act would go to the poorest fifth of Americans.

The richest fifth, by contrast, would receive nearly two-thirds of the tax benefits, ITEP found.

"The average tax cut for the richest 1%," the organization noted, "would be 25 times that of the middle 20% and more than 250 times that of the bottom 20% of Americans."

Republicans are preparing to launch their push for new tax cuts as they continue to hold the U.S. and global economies hostage in pursuit of steep federal spending reductions, all under the guise of lowering the deficit.

"We're not going to raise taxes," House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said earlier this week. "It's a spending problem."

But research published in March by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that the GOP austerity crusade "does not address the true cause of rising debt"—tax cuts.

"Tax cuts initially enacted during Republican trifectas in the past 25 years slashed taxes disproportionately for the wealthy and profitable corporations, severely reducing federal revenues," noted Bobby Kogan, CAP's senior director of federal budget policy. "In fact, relative to earlier projections, spending is down, not up. But revenues are down significantly more."

"If not for the Bush tax cuts and their extensions—as well as the Trump tax cuts—revenues would be on track to keep pace with spending indefinitely, and the debt ratio (debt as a percentage of the economy) would be declining," Kogan observed. "Instead, these tax cuts have added $10 trillion to the debt since their enactment and are responsible for 57% of the increase in the debt ratio since 2001."

Matt Gaetz openly confirms Republicans see U.S. economy as 'our hostage'

Through their actions in recent months, House Republicans have made clear that they view the debt ceiling standoff as a hostage situation that they can exploit to advance their political agenda—which includes draconian cuts to social programs and massive handouts to the fossil fuel industry.

On Tuesday, just days before the June 1 "X-date," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) came right out and admitted it, telling reporters that "my conservative colleagues for the most part support Limit, Save, Grow, and they don't feel like we should negotiate with our hostage."

Semafor's Joseph Zeballos-Roig published audio of Gaetz's comments on Twitter:

The Limit, Save, Grow Act is legislation that Republicans passed in a party-line vote last month, staking out their position that the debt ceiling shouldn't be raised unless rich tax cheats are protected and an axe is taken to spending on federal nutrition assistance, Medicaid, affordable housing, childcare, and other key programs.

The House GOP, officially led by Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) but heavily influenced by the far-right Freedom Caucus, has held to that position, threatening to force a debt default and unleash global economic chaos unless their demands are met.

Gaetz, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, suggested Tuesday that the deal McCarthy struck with his far-right flank to secure the speakership—specifically the rule allowing just one lawmaker to call a vote to unseat the speaker—has kept the Republican leader committed to debt ceiling brinkmanship.

"I believe the one-person motion to vacate has given us the best version of Speaker McCarthy and I think he's doing a good job," Gaetz said Tuesday.

Democratic lawmakers and progressive watchdog groups saw Gaetz's remarks as a frank acknowledgment of what they've said since the start of the debt ceiling standoff.

"A key player in the extreme MAGA House majority now admits what anyone paying attention has suspected all along: Congress Republicans consider the U.S. economy and millions of jobs a 'hostage' while making unreasonable austerity demands that especially hurt low-income veterans and seniors," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Accountable.US. "Anyone who doubts the looming default crisis and recession is not entirely manufactured by the MAGA majority need only give the fringe Freedom Caucus a call and hear it from the horse's mouth."

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, wrote on Twitter that "Matt Gaetz just admitted Republicans are holding the U.S. economy hostage."

"The pro-default extremists in the GOP are willing to risk economic calamity to force their cruel cuts on American families," Boyle wrote. "House Democrats will not let that happen."

Boyle is leading a longshot procedural effort known as a discharge petition to force a vote on a debt ceiling increase as the Republican leadership remains committed to pursuing deep spending cuts that Democrats in the House and Senate have dismissed as nonstarters.

Not a single House Republican has signed the discharge petition, and two Democrats—Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Ed Case of Hawaii—have yet to sign.

With negotiations between the White House and Republicans at a standstill, a growing number of congressional lawmakers—including prominent progressives such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)—are imploring President Joe Biden to use his 14th Amendment authority to unilaterally avert a default, an option the president has thus far resisted.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who has said the 14th Amendment "should be on the table," pointed to Gaetz's comments Tuesday as further confirmation that Republicans are not negotiating in good faith.

"I want to be clear about what the Republican Party is taking hostage. It is not Democrats. It is the entire U.S. economy," Ocasio-Cortez toldCNN late Tuesday. "It is extreme, and it is not acceptable."

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) added on Twitter that Gaetz and the GOP "are playing a dangerous game and, like every hostage situation, someone is likely going to be hurt."

"We have to rescue the American people," she wrote.

'Amateur hour': Progressives criticize Dem's comments on debt ceiling talks

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Monday that he views discussions of a federal spending freeze—a real-term cut when adjusted for inflation—as "inherently reasonable," a position likely to rankle progressive lawmakers who have warned against giving an inch to Republican hostage-takers.

"We're willing to discuss freezing spending at current levels," Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told reporters following the latest meeting between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling—a sit-down that came with the U.S. government just 10 days away from possibly defaulting on its obligations.

Jeffries, who has fought with progressives throughout his political career, acknowledged Monday that "many in our party" might be uncomfortable with the idea of a spending freeze, which could cut spending by more than $1 trillion over a decade.

"But President Biden recognizes we're in a divided government situation," said Jeffries.

Lindsay Owens, an economist and the executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, was among the progressives who criticized the House Democratic leader's remarks.

"Jeez. Just showing everyone our cards," wrote Owens, who has warned that "any time you let Republicans control the terms of the debate around the debt ceiling, you're in trouble."

"Starting to think we need to ask the Nevada delegation to bring some poker players to the next caucus lunch for a briefing," Owens added Monday. "This is just amateur hour."

MSNBC's Mehdi Hasan also expressed dismay over Jeffries' comments:

After previously saying he would not be willing to attach any conditions to a debt ceiling increase—a stance that was backed by House Democrats across the ideological spectrum—Biden has voiced openness to reducing spending as part of a compromise with House Republicans, who have used the debt limit as leverage to pursue massive cuts to federal programs such as nutrition assistance and Medicaid.

Notably, Jeffries did not sign an April letter from House Democrats supporting a clean debt limit increase "without any extraneous policies attached."

On Friday, White House negotiators reportedly offered to accept a deal that would freeze 2024 military and non-military discretionary spending at 2023 levels.

"That would amount to a 5% cut when adjusted for inflation—a step back from the Biden administration budget request in March, which proposed increasing discretionary spending," Axiosnoted.

But Republicans dismissed the White House offer, pushing for a larger Pentagon budget and more severe cuts to non-military spending. GOP negotiators are currently pushing for around six years of federal spending caps, which would result in steep cuts to key agencies and programs and hinder the government's ability to respond to an economic downturn.

"The GOP is threatening to tank the entire economy in the name of 'fiscal responsibility.' What's responsible about tanking the economy, exactly?"

Pointing to the White House proposal, McCarthy told the press on Monday that "a freeze is not less, it's spending the same amount"—ignoring the impact of inflation.

The Republican speaker also made clear that the GOP—which slashed taxes for the rich and corporations in 2017, blowing a huge hole in the deficit—would not accept any tax increases as part of a debt ceiling agreement.

GOP negotiators have rejected White House offers to close tax loopholes, including the notorious carried-interest loophole exploited by rich private equity executives.

"I've been very clear with the president from day one. We're not going to raise taxes," McCarthy said Monday. "It's a spending problem."

Progressive lawmakers continued to push back against Republican demands for spending cuts on Monday as the White House and McCarthy both described their latest meeting in positive terms, signaling that a deal is possible before the June 1 deadline.

"Reminder: When House Republicans insist we 'spend less,' they mean public housing, food assistance, Medicaid, and addiction support," the Congressional Progressive Caucus tweeted Monday. "We cannot give in to this extortion."

When asked about talk of a spending freeze, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) responded bluntly: "Look at what's being proposed in terms of cuts. Don't talk about spending in the abstract."

"Head Start—200,000 kids no slots, 100,000 kids without childcare," DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Monday. "Talk to me about what has been suggested."

GOP pushes for even larger Pentagon budget amid 'unconscionable' profiteering

With the U.S. just 10 days away from a possible default, House Republicans are now demanding a military budget even larger than the record $858 billion that Congress authorized for the current fiscal year as they continue pushing for steep cuts to key aid programs.

The GOP demand was reported over the weekend after Republican negotiators rejected a White House offer to "freeze" both military and non-military spending—an idea that congressional Republicans previously appeared open to—in exchange for a debt ceiling increase, causing talks to break down. The powerful defense industry, which donates heavily to Democrats and Republicans, howled in protest earlier this year at the prospect of military spending cuts.

Republicans are also, according toPolitico, "demanding work requirements for SNAP recipients that are more rigid than those they originally proposed" and "insisting on adding new immigration provisions from the GOP's recently passed border bill" while dismissing White House proposals to cut prescription drug spending and close tax loopholes exploited by the rich.

"Republicans in D.C. are pushing for a massive increase in the $858 billion Pentagon budget, a $1.8 trillion tax break to people who inherit over $1 billion, and a $3.5 trillion extension of Trump's tax breaks," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is urging President Joe Biden to act unilaterally to end the debt ceiling standoff, wrote over the weekend. "Oh, did they tell you how very, very concerned they are about the deficit?"

Higher military spending would mean that, in order for Republicans to achieve their stated spending-reduction goals, non-military spending would have to be slashed even more aggressively. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has estimated that cuts to other federal programs—from housing to childcare to medical research—"would be enormous" if military spending and veterans' healthcare were spared: "33% in 2024 rising to an eye-popping 59% cut in 2033."

The fresh GOP push for an even more bloated Pentagon budget came as a new "60 Minutes" investigation examined how private military contractors—a major lobbying force in Washington with nearly 800 registered influence-peddlers—price gouge the Defense Department with impunity, fueling the agency's annual spending growth.

"The gouging that takes place is unconscionable. It's unconscionable," Shay Assad, a former top contract negotiator at the Pentagon who previously worked at Raytheon—making him a so-called "reverse revolver"—told the program.

"No matter who they are, no matter what company it is, they need to be held accountable. And right now that accountability system is broken in the Department of Defense," said Assad. "If you're happy with companies gouging you and just looking you right in the eye and say, 'I'm gonna keep gouging you because I know you don't have the guts to do anything about it,' then I guess we should just keep doing what we're doing."

"This is what Rep. Barbara Lee and I have been talking about," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Defense Spending Reduction Caucus, tweeted in response to the "60 Minutes" probe. "We need to #AuditThePentagon."

A Pentagon-backed study released last month found, unsurprisingly, that "publicly traded U.S.-based corporations in the defense industrial base are, in aggregate, financially healthy."

"They are profitable," the study continued. "They generate substantial amounts of cash beyond their needs for operations or capital investment; the bulk is returned to shareholders so they can invest it elsewhere. They generate total returns to shareholders well in excess of what one might expect given their relative low risk to investors. Bankruptcies or other signs of financial distress are exceptionally rare. Strong financial performance was maintained even during periods of market turmoil."

Stephen Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute, has estimated that more than half of all Pentagon spending between fiscal years 2002 and 2021 went to private contractors that provide the government with military equipment.

"Free advice for the speaker of the House: if you want to cut spending so bad, start and end with the Pentagon budget," the progressive advocacy group Public Citizensaid on Saturday. "Don't touch SNAP or Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid."

Top Budget Democrat slams 'pro-default' House Freedom Caucus as GOP halts debt ceiling talks

Hours after the far-right House Freedom Caucus demanded that Speaker Kevin McCarthy call off debt ceiling talks with President Joe Biden, GOP negotiators did just that on Friday as the two sides remained at an impasse over federal spending—which Republicans want to slash deeply—and other issues.

"It's time to press pause because it's just not productive," Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.), McCarthy's handpicked lead negotiator, told reporters Friday without saying when or whether talks would resume.

McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed Graves, saying, "Yeah, we've got to pause."

An unnamed White House official told the Associated Press Friday that additional talks "will be difficult" given the two sides' "real differences."

The abrupt halt to negotiations, which had yet to yield much if any substantive progress, came at a pivotal moment, with the June 1 "X-date" less than two weeks away.

"The nation is days away from a disastrous default crisis and the extreme MAGA Majority is splintering into camps of the unreasonable and the absurd," said Liz Zelnick, director of economic security and corporate power at the progressive group Accountable.US.

"Republicans have made it clear they will hold the world economy hostage unless President Biden gives in to their demands."

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a faction of dozens of Republicans that nearly denied McCarthy the speakership earlier this year, have signaled that they won't accept anything less than the extreme legislation the House GOP passed late last month.

If approved, that bill would impose devastating cuts to federal spending and kick millions of people off of federal nutrition assistance, Medicaid, rental assistance, and other programs while only raising the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion—or suspending it through March 2024.

"House Republicans did our job on debt ceiling," the Freedom Caucus tweeted Thursday. "It's time for President Biden and Senate Democrats to do theirs and pass the Limit, Save, Grow Act."

But the legislation in its current form has no chance of passing the Senate, which is narrowly controlled by Democrats. Progressives in the House and Senate have said they won't support any deal that includes the GOP's regressive spending caps or additional work requirements for federal aid programs.

Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said in response to the Freedom Caucus' statement that the far-right GOP faction is "pro-default," adding that "these MAGA extremists will not rest until they've either turned America into a deadbeat nation or imposed cruel cuts on American families."

"This is exactly why I filed a discharge petition to ensure we can avoid default, pay our bills, and save our economy," Boyle added.

But Boyle's discharge petition, which would force a House floor vote on legislation to raise the debt ceiling, is also a longshot solution to the Republican-induced crisis given that it needs at least five GOP votes.

"Let's be clear: this did not have to happen," Boyle said in a statement earlier this week. "By taking our economy hostage and refusing to address the debt ceiling, MAGA extremists have forced Congress to consider other pathways to meet our constitutional obligation—something Congress has done more than 100 times before on a bipartisan basis, including three times in the previous administration."

As an alternative to legislative action, nearly a dozen senators led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are imploring Biden to get ready to invoke the 14th Amendment to avert a debt default, warning that Republicans aren't negotiating in good faith and are willing to wreck the global economy in pursuit of punishing austerity.

Biden aides are reportedly concerned about the legal fight that would certainly ensue if the president attempted to use his executive authority to end the standoff.

But Sanders reiterated his 14th Amendment message on Friday, writing on Twitter that "Republicans have made it clear they will hold the world economy hostage unless President Biden gives in to their demands."

"Instead," Sanders added, "he should prepare to use the 14th Amendment to ensure we pay our debts and protect working families who are already struggling."

Other nations horrified by very idea of a debt ceiling as GOP pushes U.S. toward default

Nations around the world are looking on with a mixture of alarm and bafflement as the United States hurtles toward an economy-wrecking default, with the Republican Party refusing to raise the country's globally unique debt limit without massive, harmful spending cuts.

The possibility of a U.S. default—a failure to pay the government's obligations—has already rattled global markets and prompted grave warnings from major institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, which said last week that a default would have "severe repercussions" for a world economy already facing the prospect of a central bank-induced recession.

The Washington Post reported Friday that the finance ministers of G7 nations have privately asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for "updates on the status of negotiations between the White House and House Republicans" as officials from the rich countries gather in Hiroshima for their annual summit.

Finance ministers have also voiced their concerns publicly. German finance chief Christian Lindner said last week that he hopes "an adult decision will be made with regard to the development of American government finances and the associated effects on the global economy."

Kazuo Ueda, governor of the Bank of Japan, cautioned that a U.S. default could become a "big problem" that the Federal Reserve "may not be able to counteract."

"The United States is one among the few polities that have adopted and retained debt limits."

The U.S. debt limit, which currently sits at $31.4 trillion, is a "global outlier," the Atlantic Council's Mrugank Bhusari wrote in March, noting that "the United States is one among the few polities that have adopted and retained debt limits."

"Debt limits like the United States'... are not the norm—and they rarely cause major deadlocks in the few countries that have adopted this tool," Bhusari observed. "Like the United States, Denmark also sets its debt limit as a nominal value. But that’s where the similarity ends. The Danish Parliament intentionally sets the ceiling sufficiently high such that it will not be crossed, rendering it no more than a formality."

"Like the United States and Denmark, Kenya also has a nominal debt limit. However, it is under the process of replacing the nominal limit with a limit as a percentage of GDP at 55%," Bhusari continued. "Australia briefly experimented with a debt limit similar to that of the United States, experienced the political infighting that Washington is familiar with, and abolished it soon after."

Citing one Latin America expert, the Post noted Friday that "a debt ceiling like the one that exists in the U.S. stirred debate" in Brazil, where the Lula government is aiming to loosen existing restraints on government spending.

The idea of imposing a strict debt limit "was shot down vehemently, thanks to the U.S. example," the Post reported.

"We are an example to the world," Stephanie Kelton, an American economist, wrote on Twitter. "An example of what not to do."

The international community's reaction to the perilous U.S. debt ceiling standoff comes as President Joe Biden is facing growing pressure from lawmakers at home to end the crisis unilaterally if necessary by invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that "the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."

Progressives and legal scholars have long argued that the debt limit, first imposed by Congress in 1917, is unconstitutional and should be abolished—an argument that the National Association of Government Employees makes in a lawsuit filed in federal court 10 days ago.

But as The American Prospect's David Dayen wrote Friday, the plaintiffs "didn’t file a motion for immediate relief," so "the case has sat dormant."

Rich CEOs avoid taxes on retirement funds as their employees struggle: report

Millions of people in the United States have little to nothing in retirement savings, a consequence of low-wage jobs that give workers minimal room to stash money away.

Meanwhile, at the end of 2021, the nation's top CEOs held an estimated $9 billion in rapidly growing special retirement accounts that aren't available to their employees—a double standard established by the U.S. tax code.

That double standard is the subject of A Tale of Two Retirements, a new report published Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Jobs With Justice. The report says that while "ordinary employees with access to 401(k) plans face strict limits on the amounts they can set aside, tax-free, for their golden years," highly paid executives of major corporations "have unlimited tax-deferred compensation accounts" known as top hat plans.

"The sections of the U.S. tax code related to employer-provided, tax-deferred retirement accounts impose one set of strict rules on ordinary workers and another set of far more flexible rules for corporate top brass," the report notes. "Employees with 401(k) plans face hard caps on the amounts they can set aside in these accounts every year. By contrast, Section 409A of the tax code allows top corporate executives to place unlimited amounts in special 'non-qualified tax-deferred compensation' accounts."

The funds in such plans are only taxed when they are withdrawn, allowing executives to reap the benefits of years of investment returns tax-free.

The new analysis shows that "at more than 20 low-wage employers, executives have sufficient deferred compensation funds to generate monthly retirement checks larger than their workers' median annual pay," pointing specifically to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon (who held over $169 million in his deferred compensation account at the end of last year) and former Home Depot CEO and current board chair Craig Menear (who has nearly $15 million in a deferred compensation account).

Home Depot employees aren't nearly as well-positioned for retirement. According to the researchers behind the new report, 53% of those eligible to participate in Home Depot's 401(k) plan have zero balances. Menear's top hat account balance is "enough to generate a monthly retirement check three times larger than the company’s median worker pay of just $30,100," the report notes.

The executive with the largest top hat account among S&P 500 company heads is Paul Saville, CEO of the homebuilding giant NVR, Inc. At the end of 2022, Saville held $488 million in his deferred compensation account—which could yield $3 million a month in retirement checks for the rest of his life.

"That's 1,513 times as much as a typical American retiree could expect to receive in monthly Social Security and 401(k) benefits," IPS and Jobs With Justice note.

Sarah Anderson, global economy director at IPS and a co-author of the new report, said that "there's no rational argument for allowing wealthy executives to shelter unlimited amounts of compensation from taxes while ordinary workers have strict limits on their annual 401(k) contributions."

"Nothing but the power of corporate leaders to rig rules in their favor can explain this double standard," Anderson argued.

"Perhaps most importantly, we need to expand Social Security, the key pillar for retirement security for most Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income families who receive little to no tax benefits."

For workers under the age of 50, the annual 401(k) contribution limit is $22,500 in 2023—a ceiling that the overwhelming majority of workers with access to a 401(k) won't hit.

"Nationwide, just 35% of working-age adults have tax-deferred 401(k)-type defined contribution plans through their employer and another 13% have defined benefit or cash balance plans. Some 42% of Americans age 56-64 have zero retirement account savings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau," the new report observes. "Americans who are unable to save for retirement need to rely on Social Security, which pays an average monthly benefit of $1,784, as of March 2023."

The report adds that while companies "often match a portion of employee 401(k) contributions," that benefit is "meaningless for the many low-wage workers who cannot afford to set aside any of their wages."

Furthermore, roughly half of U.S. workers in the private sector have no access to an employer-provided retirement plan.

"For decades now, large U.S. corporations have been making workers' retirement futures less secure by abandoning traditional pensions in favor of 401(k) plans," the report points out. "In 1984, more than 30 million Americans had defined benefit pensions through which employers bore the financial risks for their workers' retirement security. By 2020, that number had declined to just 12 million, and private sector workers were approximately 3.5 times as likely to have a defined contribution plan as a traditional pension."

IPS and Jobs With Justice highlight a number of potential policy changes that could help combat the stark and worsening retirement divide between ordinary workers—who are facing a full-fledged retirement income crisis—and executives, including changes to the tax provisions that let rich executives shelter their compensation.

"Perhaps most importantly, we need to expand Social Security, the key pillar for retirement security for most Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income families who receive little to no tax benefits," the report states. "Funding for expansion could come from lifting the wage cap on payroll taxes so that CEOs and other high earners pay roughly the same share of their total income into the Social Security fund as ordinary workers."

Scott Klinger, report co-author and senior equitable development specialist at Jobs With Justice, said that "rather than giving corporate CEOs unfair special retirement tax benefits not available to those they employ, Congress should eliminate the cap on payroll taxes paid by corporate executives so that Social Security benefits can be strengthened, especially for the 40% of American workers for whom Social Security is their sole retirement income."