Biden and McCarthy to Meet in Hopes of Reviving Debt Talks
President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet on Monday afternoon in an effort to revive talks to avert a default on the nation’s debt after negotiations faltered over the weekend.
The meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 pm at the White House, comes after negotiators clashed over Republicans’ demands to cut spending in exchange for raising the debt limit. Late Sunday, Mr. Biden said he had spoken with Mr. McCarthy on the flight home from a summit meeting in Japan, saying it “went well.”
With the United States at risk of defaulting for the first time, hopes for a breakthrough dimmed in recent days after Mr. McCarthy and his negotiators declared a “pause” to the talks. He and his aides have accused White House officials of being unreasonable and unwilling to bow to one of Republicans’ key demands: cutting spending to the previous fiscal year’s levels.
That set off a back-and-forth, with Mr. Biden’s aides countered that Republicans were backsliding on key areas of negotiation. Progressives have been pushing the president to consider invoking a clause in the 14th Amendment that would compel the government to continue issuing new debt should it run out of cash. But Mr. Biden has been openly skeptical that the measure would work.
“I’m looking at the 14th Amendment, as to whether or not we have the authority,” he said during a news conference with reporters in Hiroshima, Japan, over the weekend. “I think we have the authority. The question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it could not — would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt.”
Mr. McCarthy sounded more upbeat on Sunday after the call with Mr. Biden, in which the two pledged to meet. The president “walked through some of the things that he’s still looking at, he’s hearing from his members; I walked through things I’m looking at,” Mr. McCarthy said. “I felt that part was productive. But look — there’s no agreement. We’re still apart.
Chief among the outstanding issues is how much to spend overall next fiscal year on discretionary programs and how long any spending caps should be in place. The latest White House proposal would hold both military and other spending — which includes education, scientific research and environmental protection — constant from the current fiscal year to the next. Republicans have insisted that overall discretionary spending drop as they still call for increased military spending.
The number of legislative days for Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling before the projected June 1 deadline is rapidly dwindling. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in an interview with NBC News over the weekend that the odds of the government getting through to mid-June before defaulting were “quite low.”
Once negotiators agree to a deal, it will take time to translate it into legislative text. Mr. McCarthy has promised that he will give lawmakers 72 hours to review the bill.