Biden, McCarthy meet to discuss debt ceiling

The new Republican leader said it was a “good first meeting,” but expectations for quick progress were low as Republican lawmakers pushed for sharp cuts.

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met face-to-face on Wednesday for more than an hour of much-anticipated budget negotiations — “a good first meeting,” the new leader of the House of Representatives said. Republicans said – but expectations for quick progress by the GOP are low lawmakers push for sharp cuts in a deal to avert a crisis that limits the national debt.

Biden has opposed direct spending talks related to the key act of raising the nation’s legal debt ceiling, warning against the possibility of plunging the economy into chaos.

McCarthy invited herself to the White House to start a conversation before the summer repayment deadline. And he emerged saying the meeting went better than expected: The two had agreed to meet again, and the speaker said he looked forward to hearing from Biden soon.

“There’s no deal, no promises except that we’re going to continue this conversation,” McCarthy told reporters outside the White House.

He said he had told the president he would not raise the debt ceiling without concessions from Democrats.

“I made it very clear,” he said. “We’re not going to spend more next year than this year.”

And Biden’s response? McCarthy said the president has insisted on a “clean debt ceiling” vote without the budget cuts Republicans are demanding.

“We both have different views on this, but I think it was a good meeting,” McCarthy said.

The White House said the president and spokesman agreed to continue the conversation.

The Speaker of the House arrived at the afternoon session without a formal Republican budget proposal, but he packed the promises he made to other far-right and conservative lawmakers. of the Republican Party during the difficult campaign to become Speaker of the House. He then vowed to work to bring federal spending back to 2022 levels – down 8%. He also promised to take steps to balance the budget over the decade – an ambitious, if politically unattainable, goal.

McCarthy said he told the president, “I want to see if we can come to an agreement ahead of time.”

The political and economic risks are high for both the leaders, who have close ties, and for the nation as they work to prevent default.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed Congress last month that the government had reached its borrowing capacity limit, $31 trillion, with Congressional approval needed to raise the ceiling to allow more debt to pay the nation’s accumulated bills. While Yellen could come up with “extraordinary measures” to temporarily cover the bills, that funding will run out by June.

“Everybody is asking the same question as Speaker McCarthy: Show us your plan. Where is your plan, Republican? Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., said before the meeting.

“For days, Speaker McCarthy heralded this sit-down as some kind of big win in his debt ceiling negotiations,” Schumer said. But he added, “Speaker McCarthy showing up at the White House without a plan is like sitting down at the table with no cards in hand.”

Raising the debt ceiling is a routine vote in Congress that has taken on too much significance over the past decade as the nation’s debt has grown. Newly empowered with a majority, House Republicans want to force Biden and Senate Democrats to cut budgets as part of a deal to lift the cap.

Before the meeting at the White House, Republican members of the House of Representatives met privately to discuss policies. And McCarthy met Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday at the Capitol.

McConnell has a history of negotiating with Biden during the most recent debt ceiling dispute a decade ago. But the Senate GOP leader, who is in the minority, said it was up to McCarthy and the president to come up with a deal that could be accepted by a new House majority.

Still, McConnell is doing his part to influence the process from afar and push Biden to negotiate.

“The President of the United States cannot leave the table,” McConnell said in his address to the Senate.

Cutting the federal budget is easier said than done, as previous budget deals have shown.

Following the 2011 Obama-era debt ceiling controversy, Republicans and Democrats agreed to impose a federal budget cap on domestic spending and defense that was supposed to last for 10 years. but in the end proved to be too much to bear.

After initial cuts, both sides agreed in subsequent years to change the budget cap to protect priority programs. Either way, the cap recently expired, and last year Congress agreed to a $1.7 trillion federal spending bill, which sparked renewed outrage among financial hawks. lock up.

McCarthy reiterated that he would not propose any cuts to Social Security and Medicare programs primarily for older Americans. But other Republicans want those cuts as part of overall austerity.

Such pillar programs, along with the Medicaid health care system, make up the bulk of federal spending and are difficult to cut politically, especially given the growing population of people in need. serving in congressional districts across the country.

Agreeing on the size and scope of the GOP’s proposed cuts will be a difficult imperative for McCarthy as he struggles to build consensus among the Republican majority in his narrow and narrow House of Representatives. gap between the conservative wing and his far-right wing in the party.

McCarthy told reporters he doesn’t just count on Republican support and wants the help of Democrats to get a deal through Congress. But relying on a bipartisan approach could spark an uprising from McCarthy’s hardline right-wing lawmakers who could threaten to oust him from his position as speaker.

After the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, several Republican lawmakers insisted they would not allow the negotiations to turn into a debt crisis.

“Obviously we don’t want to default. We’re not going to do that,” said Representative Warren Davidson, R-Ohio. “But we will have to discuss the trajectory we are on. Everyone knows it’s not sustainable.”

Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, chairman of the Republican Research Committee, held a private briefing for his team, whose roughly 175-member group makes up the majority Republican majority in the House. .

Hern sent a letter to McCarthy outlining the principles of their budget cuts ahead of the meeting at the White House.

Non-mandatory programs of the federal budget, in defense and domestic accounts, have also proven difficult to cut. Biden, McCarthy meet to discuss debt ceiling

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