WASHINGTON – A meeting between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy Monday afternoon to discuss a way forward to avoid a debt limit The defaulter failed to reach an agreement, but both sides agreed that the talks were “productive.”
“We don’t have an agreement yet, but I felt the discussion was productive in areas where we have differences of opinion,” McCarthy, a Republican from California, told reporters after leaving the Oval Office. He added that the “tone tonight was better than any night we’ve had discussions.”
A White House official said disagreements persist, but echoed the speaker’s assessment that the meeting was generally “productive,” a word that kept cropping up as negotiators dispersed.
It was a “robust” and “respectful” conversation, the official said.
Biden, who made no public comment, repeated in a statement the assessment that the talks were “productive,” adding that talks between staff negotiators would continue.
With only days left until the June 1 deadline, when the Treasury Department is unable to pay the nation’s bills, the urgency is mounting for Biden and McCarthy to find a way to increase the government’s borrowing limit.
McCarthy repeatedly refrained from assuring the two sides would reach an agreement in time, saying he wished he had started negotiating before the final hour. He has ruled out cuts in military spending, as well as new revenue to reduce the deficit, which, along with his promise not to cut Social Security and Medicare, leaves a limited portion of the US domestic budget on the chopping block. McCarthy also said he does not support a short-term extension of the debt deadline, to buy time for both parties, and vowed to abide by the 72-hour rule to give members time to read an agreement before voting. a bill.
Biden said before the meeting that he was “optimistic” about progress, telling reporters in the Oval Office that default was not an option.
“The American people would have a real boost in their economic well-being,” Biden said. “In fact, the rest of the world would too.”
Asked if a deal on general spending could break the logjam, Biden said “that alone” wouldn’t be enough. The president said he also wanted to close tax “loopholes” and make sure the wealthy pay their fair share.
The two sides agreed that reducing the deficit is a priority, he said, but they disagree on spending cuts and measures to increase revenue.
“While there are areas of disagreement, the President and I, and his top negotiators, Chairman McHenry and Congressman Graves, and our staff will continue to discuss the way forward,” Biden said in the statement.
“We have disagreements,” McCarthy said, adding that revenue had increased. But the speaker said he and Biden “both agree that we need to change course, that our debt is too great.”
Previously, McCarthy said he insists on a deal to “spend less” than current levels in a deal, though he didn’t say anything when asked if the total amount would be between this year’s levels and those for fiscal 2022. McCarthy charted a line against cuts in military spending before meeting with Biden: “I don’t think you should put America in jeopardy. For me, it’s off the table.”
The White House is considering health savings as an area of compromise with Republicans as the two sides seek to bridge a trillion-dollar policy gap, according to a source familiar with the talks. The savings would focus on federal program areas, such as Medicare Part B, where the government is seen as overpaying private health care companies, the source said.
Most importantly, the source said, such “savings” would be considered “revenue” for the Democrats in these negotiations, allowing both sides to win.
A major remaining question is whether Biden and McCarthy can reach a deal that has the votes to pass the Republican-led House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate in a short amount of time. And if a bill passes with a majority Democratic vote in the House, will McCarthy face an uprising from his hardliners? Pressure for deeper budget cuts has become a source of tension within the Republican caucus, as some conservatives fear McCarthy is willing to cut a deal with Biden that won’t go far enough.
A White House official said before sitting down that a “reasonable compromise” could still be reached, despite the obstacles to reaching an agreement that both parties could accept. The hope is that Biden and McCarthy can come to an agreement on spending, the official said.
McCarthy had said he hoped they would find “common ground” on a deal that would raise the ceiling while working to curb inflation, reduce reliance on China and make the congressional spending process “work.”
The speaker has said that “decisions have to be made” in time to avoid a crisis, and that he understands that Republicans “do not control the Senate and we do not control the presidency.”
McCarthy will have to fend off demands from hardline conservatives in their narrow majority, who are pushing for tougher spending cuts and saying the House-passed bill, called the Limit, Save, Grow Act, should be the standard by that adhere any deal
Biden faces angst from his party’s left flank over considering some Republican demands, such as tougher work requirements for federal aid programs. Many progressives, uncomfortable with the negotiations, have called on the president to invoke the 14th Amendment and tackle the debt ceiling unilaterally.
“I’m looking at the 14th Amendment to see whether or not we have the authority. I think we have the authority,” Biden said Sunday at a news conference in Hiroshima. “The question is: Could it be done and invoked at a time when it could not be appealed, and as a consequence the date in question passed, and still not pay the debt? That is a question that I think is unresolved.”
The meeting followed a hectic few days of staff-level negotiations between the White House and Republican leaders.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., adjourned the House last week for a previously scheduled recess, but told senators to be ready to return on 24-hour notice.
Negotiations had turned turbulent in recent days over the central dispute of how much the federal government should spend in the coming fiscal year. McCarthy and the Republicans want a substantial cut that the Democrats have been reluctant to grant. Democrats reckon Republicans propose discretionary spending cuts 22% whether military programs are exempted, as many in the Republican Party want.
Speaking in Hiroshima, Japan, on Sunday, Biden argued that the “extreme positions” of Republicans were holding back progress.
“I did my part,” Biden told reporters. “Now is the time for the other side to move. There are more extreme positions, because much of what they have already proposed is simply, frankly, unacceptable.”
On Biden’s way home Sunday from the G-7 summit in Japan, he had a phone call with McCarthy that the speaker described as “very productive” and included a request for the president to meet.
Arriving at the Capitol Monday morning, Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C., a McCarthy ally, told reporters that the call “put us back in the room together.”
Over the weekend, Biden seemed less certain that Republicans would do whatever it took to prevent default, warning that he “cannot guarantee” that Republicans will not force a situation where the government cannot pay its bills.
But the president said Monday that he and McCarthy had he discussed “the need for a bipartisan agreement” that could be approved by both chambers.
“We have to be in a position where we can sell it to our constituents,” Biden said. “We are pretty well divided in the Chamber, almost down the middle. And it’s no different in the Senate. So we have to get something that we can sell to both sides.”