Reviving the message of unity and appeasement from his start in office, Joe Biden congratulated himself on Friday for having avoided a “catastrophic” default by the United States, and extolled the virtues of political compromise.
• Read also: The United States rejects in extremis the threat of a default
• Read also: House of Representatives passes bill suspending debt ceiling
“Nothing would have been more irresponsible, nothing would have been more catastrophic” than a bankruptcy of the first world power, said the American president, announcing that he would sign a law on Saturday allowing to push back until January 2025 this perilous prospect.
The American Congress adopted this text this week, which makes it possible to suspend for almost two years the public debt ceiling of the United States, and which also sets certain budgetary objectives.
Without this text, the country risked being in default of payment next Monday, June 5.
Joe Biden took care of the staging to address the nation: seated behind his work table, in the famous Oval Office, the 80-year-old Democrat, candidate for re-election in 2024, spoke in a very calm, reassuring.
“Finding a consensus across partisan divides is difficult. Unity is difficult. But we must never stop trying,” he said.
After several weeks of very difficult negotiations with the Republican opposition, the American president wanted to reconnect with the message of reconciliation of his inauguration in January 2021.
“Without unity, there is no peace,” said the Democrat, who took office shortly after supporters of his predecessor Donald Trump stormed the Capitol.
In a speech which certainly also aimed to reinforce the contrast with the Republican billionaire, also in the race for 2024, Joe Biden felt that it was necessary to “stop shouting at each other” and to “lower the temperature”.
He wanted to “salute” his most prominent opponent in this debt file, the Republican boss of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy.
“Both parties negotiated in good faith. Both sides have kept their word,” said Joe Biden, who never misses an opportunity to boast of his sense of political compromise.
The Democratic president, even if he intends to take all possible political credit from this affair, does not openly claim victory at the end of the budgetary negotiations with the opposition: “Nobody got everything he wanted. But the Americans got what they needed.”
Claiming to have avoided drastic cuts in social benefits and in his major investment projects, Joe Biden also sought to project himself into the future, whom many Americans consider too old to stay in the White House.
Referring to his desire to tax the richest more, he told his fellow citizens: “I will come back to the charge and with your help, I will win”.
Nothing says that this political and very technical fight around the debt, which had already taken place when Barack Obama was president, will really have an influence on the electorate.
But it left some traces: the rating agency Fitch thus kept the precious AAA rating of the United States under surveillance on Friday, deploring the “political polarization” and noting “a constant deterioration of governance over the past 15 years “.
Like almost all developed economies, the United States lives on credit – it also has the heaviest debt in the world, in absolute terms.
But no other industrialized country comes up against a rigid debt ceiling at regular intervals, which Congress must raise.