House Speaker Kevin McCarthy laid out his proposal to handle the debt limit in a speech Monday at the New York Stock Exchange and characterized the plan as a reasonable alternative to high government spending.

“Let me be clear: a no-strings-attached debt limit increase will not pass,” he said.

McCarthy said his proposal would return federal government spending to 2022 levels, limit spending growth over 10 years to 1% annually and not touch Social Security or Medicare.

“Don’t believe anyone who tells you these are draconian limits,” he said.

The U.S. hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit cap in January and the Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” to pay short-term bills, which could continue into June when either the debt ceiling must be raised or default. Congress has raised the debt ceiling 78 times since 1960, according to the Treasury Department, 49 times under a Republican president and 29 times under a Democratic president.

McCarthy said defaulting on the debt was “not an option, but neither is a future of higher taxes, higher interest rates, more dependency on China, an economy that doesn’t work for working Americans.”

He called debt limit negotiations “an opportunity to examine our nation’s finances,” criticized President Joe Biden for only meeting with him once over the debt limit and blamed the Biden administration for inflation.

Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy speaks during an event at the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, April 17, 2023. | Seth Wenig, Associated Press

“It is basic economics that when Washington prints more and more money prices go up and purchasing power comes down,” McCarthy said.

White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said in a statement that McCarthy was “engaging in dangerous economic hostage taking.”

“(H)e again failed to clearly outline what House Republicans are proposing and will vote on, even as he referenced a vague, extreme MAGA wish list that will increase costs for hard-working families, take food assistance and health care away from millions of Americans, and yet would enlarge the deficit when combined with House Republican proposals for tax giveaways skewed to the super-rich, special interests and profitable companies,” Bates said.

Some Republican lawmakers don’t want to raise the debt ceiling, like Rep. Greg Pence of Indiana who said he’d vote against it even if it included every one of his priorities. When asked on CNBC whether he had his party’s support, McCarthy said he had “the support of America because I’ll get the party behind it.”

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A CBS News poll released Monday showed 70% of U.S. adults believe the U.S. should raise the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on its debts. The poll also found 59% believe spending on Medicare and Medicaid should be increased and 63% believe spending on Social Security should be increased.

McCarthy’s speech came on his 100th day as House Speaker, a position he won after four days and 15 rounds of votes.

“If there’s one thing that I hope America has learned about me in the last 100 days in my race to become Speaker, I will never give up,” he said.