Kamala Harris' debt ceiling briefing hampered by tech glitches, hoarseness

 May 21, 2023

With President Joe Biden out of the country for the G-7 Summit, the task of briefing journalists and Democrat colleagues on the status of the debt ceiling crisis fell to Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday, and as the New York Post reports, she lost her voice and then her Zoom connection, making the event a real challenge.

The awkward presentation came amid growing concerns of debt default amid an apparent stall in negotiations between the White House and congressional Republicans, just two weeks ahead of a projected deadline for reaching an agreement.

Bumpy beginning

Something seemed audibly amiss the very moment Harris began her remarks to what was described as a group of “stakeholders” in the debt limit debate, as the Washington Examiner noted.

“I want to thank you all for joining us today,” Harris began, before adding, “[i]f you can hear, I have a bit of a frog in my throat, please forgive me. I've been talking about this issue a lot lately.”

As if that wasn't enough, according to the Post, just two minutes into Harris' briefing, her Zoom audio connection ceased in the middle of a sentence in which she was laying blame for the debt ceiling impasse at the feet of Republicans.

Harris' audio capabilities reportedly did not return for another seven minutes, during which her staffers attempted to provide filler content for those tuning in.

“I am here”

Once Harris' connection to her listening audience was restored, she said, “I am here. I am here,” and resumed her criticisms of Republicans apace.

Laying out the high stakes of a potential default, Harris observed, “A default could trigger a recession, [inaudible] military paychecks and raise interest rates for years to come and turn mortgage rates into a situation where they would actually go up, credit card payments would go up and small business loans would be more expensive.”

She also detailed the impact of default on retirement accounts and programs such as Social Security and Medicare and suggested that those on the call start mobilizing supporters to put pressure on the GOP to abandon its negotiating position requiring spending cuts in exchange for a debt limit increase -- something Biden has declared a non-starter.

“Make sure members of Congress know a default would not be acceptable under any circumstances. Talk with your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues and make sure they understand the real consequences a default would have on their lives, immediate consequences,” Harris said.

Biden “blameless”

Given the urgency of the present situation, the White House received a fair amount of backlash about Biden's decision to go ahead with the G-7 trip instead of staying in D.C. to continue negotiations, according to the Examiner.

In response, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre declared that Harris is among the president's top advisers and an equal “partner” in terms of debt limit negotiation clout, saying, “She has been a partner in this. She has been consulted multiple times on the budget, on preventing default. This is something where the president clearly respects her view.”

That said, Biden appears to believe that his side's role in negotiations has already been completed, saying Sunday in Hiroshima, as Fox News noted, “I've done my part,” adding, “It's time for the other side to move their team positions, because much of what they were proposed is simply quite frankly, unacceptable.”

Despite refusing to give an inch in discussions with Republicans to date, Biden further seemed to preemptively absolve himself of responsibility should a default ultimately occur. “On the merits, based on what I've offered, I would be blameless,” he said, further contending that “MAGA Republicans” are putting the economy on the brink of disaster for the sole purpose of hampering his reelection prospects, comments that do little to engender hope of an imminent deal.

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