Lankford Responds to Secretary Yellen on ABC This Week: President Biden Has Refused to Negotiate


Watch the interview on YouTube HERE 

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today responded to Secretary Yellen’s calls to Congress to raise the debt limit when President Biden has stalled talks for 96 days on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos.


Stephanopoulos: I want to bring in Oklahoma Senator James Lankford now.  

Senator Lankford, thank you for joining us. 

I want to start with the debt limit. You heard the secretary there. The President does not want to invoke the 14th Amendment, but she didn’t seem to completely take it off the table. Just said it wasn’t a very good option. What’s your response to that?  

Lankford: Yes, it’s certainly not a good option and she rightfully said it would be a constitutional crisis because the Constitution is very clear that spending — all those details around spending and money actually has to come through Congress. So I just want to remind everybody, it’s been 96 days since the president set down with the speaker of the House to be able to talk about anything on the debt limit. The debt limit conversation came up the week after the election in November to say this is coming in the coming days. Everyone knew this was coming. And the president’s refused to be able to negotiate about it. That’s been the most stunning part about this is, everyone knew it was coming. It’s time to be able to negotiate it.  

And even last week, when the Treasury secretary said, well, now the x day may be June the 1st, the President’s response was, well, maybe next week we should get together and talk about this. It should have been the next day that they would actually sit down and be able to talk about it. So we’ve really been very surprised that the President has been unwilling to be able to negotiate and talk about this. And so we’ll –  

Stephanopoulos: Well, of course, the –  

Lankford: We’ll see what he does in the days ahead. But this is between the Speaker and the President. 

Stephanopoulos: Of course, the Congress – and, of course, the Congress also hadn’t passed a budget. The House only passed their bill days ago. And just yesterday you and the 43 senators put out your position saying — suggesting that there has to be spending cuts and reforms.  

It does appear that there seems to be some wiggle room here, that there could be some sort of a deal where you all reach some kind of agreement on some sort of spending cuts. You all say it’s tied to the debt limit. The president says it’s not.  

Lankford: No, it will be tied to the debt limit because we’ve got to have this conversation. We’re the only country in the world that has a debt limit like this. There’s only two countries that have any kind of debt limit. We’re the only one that has a debt limit like this one. The reason we have it is because it forces a moment to be able to talk about debt and deficit and to say, where are we going on this? Deficits are rising very, very quickly. The American people feel it. We feel it in our economy. It’s entirely reasonable to be able to sit down and say, if we’re continuing to add more and more debt, let’s talk about the whole view…. 

Stephanopoulos: But it – but it’s about paying bills you already incurred, isn’t it? It’s about paying bills that the United States has already incurred.  

Lankford: It is about debt that’s already incurred. It – it – George, it’s about – as you know, it’s about not just debt that’s incurred, but it’s also raising the limit of what we can continue to be able to add on this. 

And, again, this is not new. You go back to 2017. Senator Schumer said that the debt limit was leverage for Democrats to be able to negotiate with President Trump. When President – when, at that time, Senator Biden was there under the Bush Administration, there were five different debt ceiling votes during that time. He voted for one. He voted no on two of them. And on two of them he didn’t even show up to vote. On the two that he voted no on, he put out a statement saying that the world has changed and that we need to raise taxes at this point. So, he was using that time to raise taxes.  

Speaker Pelosi used that leverage with President Trump to increase spreading around the debt limit. So, it seems very odd every time that there’s a Republican that’s involved in the debate, suddenly the media talks about, oh, there’s going to be this great calamity. We’ve always paid our bills.  

But Democrats and Republicans have both used this moment to be able to look at it and say, let’s talk about where we’re going, what’s the direction, what’s the future? All of the debt limit increases under the Trump Administration, none of those were clean. Speaker Pelosi demanded additional spending for every single one of them. So, these are not moments where there’s this, quote/unquote, always clean unless Republicans are negotiating. But Republicans are very united at this point to say, we should look at debt and deficit and to say, what are we going to do to slow down our spending as a government?  

Stephanopoulos: Are you prepared – are you prepared to specify the kind of cuts you’re talking about? Even the House bill doesn’t really specify the cuts.  

Lankford: Right. Yes, the House bill, as they put out, was their first parameter. It is the beginning of a negotiation to say the House is well prepared and has been prepared to be able to negotiate this. This will be a negotiation between the speaker of the House and between the president. That’s the same as it was during the Trump administration when it was Speaker Pelosi and President Trump negotiating.  

So they should sit down – in fact, they should have sat down months ago to be able to talk about this. But, for whatever reason, President Biden has determined that he doesn’t want to negotiate on this and has said it’s got to be clean and has made promises if you’ll – if you’ll do this today, I promise I’ll do something later on, on the budget. That’s just not proved to be true. Joe Manchin can tell you that if the president says I – you know, do this for me today, I’ll promise I’ll do something later for you, has not worked out for Joe Manchin in what he did — what happen with the Inflation Reduction Act.  

We’ve certainly seen this movie before. It’s time we actually sit down and make a larger plan. The exact same thing that happened under Speaker Pelosi and President Trump when they sat down and negotiated it around a debt ceiling.  

Stephanopoulos: What do you expect to happen Tuesday?  

Lankford: Well, I would hope that they would all sit down and be able to talk about, “OK, what are the parameters? Where are we?” We have $31 trillion in debt. That’s happening as a nation. It’s continuing to accelerate. We’re continuing to see high inflation. We have all the risks of a recession that’s out there based on what’s happening on government spending and such.  

So I would hope they would sit down and say, “What are the areas that we do have common ground on? What are the areas that we can actually begin to reduce spending?” 

I don’t find a single American, whether they’re around government or not around government, that says “The federal government spends every dollar perfectly; there’s nowhere in federal spending we can cut; everything’s very efficient.” 

Everyone knows that there’s areas of waste in government. We should actually sit down and be able to talk about it and say, “What are the priorities? How are we going to spend on those priorities and to make sure that we’re realigning and not just saying what we’re spending now we need to just keep spreading and keep adding debt at the rate that we’re adding it?”