House Speaker McCarthy, Biden to Discuss Debt Limit and Spending Wednesday

By David Lawder and Trevor Hunnicutt

WASHINGTON/WILMINGTON, Del. (Reuters) -President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy will meet at the White House on Wednesday for talks about the federal debt ceiling and the prospect of a US bankruptcy.

Hardline Republican lawmakers are withholding support for a measure that would make the country pay its debts until Democrats agree to future cuts.

The White House has said raising the debt limit is non-negotiable, citing the risk to the US economy of bankruptcy.

Analysts are skeptical that face-to-face talks between the Democratic president and Republican leader, confirmed by both sides on Sunday, will soon end a high-stakes crisis in which members of both parties see opportunity to score political points before the US Treasury runs out. runs out of money to pay his bills this summer.

“The president will ask Speaker McCarthy if he intends to fulfill his constitutional obligation to avoid a national default, as every other leader of the House and Senate has done in U.S. history,” a spokesman said. of the White House who declined to be named.

“He will underline that the economic security of all Americans must not be held hostage to force unpopular cuts on working families.”

On Sunday, McCarthy said Republicans will not allow a U.S. bankruptcy and that cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be “off the table” in debt ceiling negotiations.

But he added that Republicans want to “strengthen” costly retirement and health care programs for seniors — a statement the White House called a euphemism for spending cuts.

“I know the president said he didn’t want to have discussions” about spending cuts, McCarthy said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “I want to find a reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling[and]take control of this runaway spending.”

The U.S. Treasury Department took extraordinary cash management measures this month to avoid breaching the $31.4 trillion limit on federal debt imposed by Congress. But without an increase in early June, the Treasury has said it may run short of cash to pay the government’s bills, risking the biggest threat of default since the 2011 deadlock.

“There will be no standard,” McCarthy said without elaborating. “But what’s really irresponsible is what the Democrats are doing now, saying you just have to raise the limit.”

Biden had previously promised to hold the meeting with McCarthy as part of a series of appointments with the new Congress.

On Sunday, the president’s spokesman said the talks would address “a range of issues” and focused on “strengthening his working relationship” with McCarthy, whose party has stepped up its investigation into Biden since they took control of the House from Democrats after the mid-term session in November. elections.

Biden, who is considering running for re-election in 2024, has been sharply critical of McCarthy’s Republican caucus. He earlier this month characterized them as “fiscal demented”, threatened to veto their legislation and accused them of widening the deficit, favoring billionaires, raising taxes on the middle class and threatening popular benefit programs.

McCarthy and other Republicans, both in the House and Senate, have said they will not support raising the debt ceiling without spending cuts or spending reforms.

The Republican threat to block efforts to raise the debt limit is unusual; such increases have been passed in Congress on a bipartisan basis for decades, with the exception of a 2011 vote that included spending cuts for several years.


McCarthy did not provide details on specific demands and ruled out raising the retirement age for Social Security and Medicare benefits.

White House spokesman Andrew Bates said McCarthy’s pledge to strengthen programs would lead to budget cuts.

“For years, Republicans in Congress have advocated reducing earned benefits using Washington code words like ‘amplify,’ when their policies would privatize Medicare and Social Security, raise the retirement age or cut benefits,” Bates said in a statement. .

The House speaker, who agreed to rules that make it easier for his party to remove him from office over policy disagreements, said he would focus on discretionary spending, which has increased dramatically over the past two years with infrastructure – and semiconductor legislation passed with bipartisan support and a green energy bill passed by Democrats.

“I think everything, if you look at discretionary, is there,” McCarthy said. “We don’t just need to print more money, we need to balance our budget. So I want to look at each individual department. Where can we become more efficient, effective and accountable?”

He said he would also look at defense spending to reduce waste.

Asked if he would support a short-term extension of the debt limit to September as some lawmakers have suggested buying time to pay bills, McCarthy said: “I don’t want to sit here negotiating. I’d rather sit down with the president and let’s having discussions.”

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and Trevor Hunnicutt in Wilmington, Delaware; editing by Mary Milliken, Lisa Shumaker, Mark Porter and Deepa Babington and Aurora Ellis)

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