President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet face-to-face Wednesday afternoon as part of high-stakes talks to come to an agreement over extending the country’s debt ceiling to stave off a looming financial crisis.
In the weeks leading up to the meeting, the White House and House Republicans have staked out their positions.
Biden has said he refuses to negotiate the debt ceiling and has called on McCarthy and his Republican colleagues to show their cards on how they plan to reduce spending.
“Show me your budget, I’ll show you mine,” the president told reporters on Monday.
McCarthy, elected speaker in a combative four-day, 15-ballot vote last month, has asserted that cuts to Social Security and Medicare are off the table and wants to reach a budget-cap agreement to reduce federal spending to 2022 levels, Punchbowl News reported.
“I think the first thing [Biden] should do, especially as president of the United States, is say he’s willing to sit down and find a common ground and negotiate together,” McCarthy told reporters Tuesday.
But Republicans are reportedly split over how to reduce the deficit, with some calling for slashing the Pentagon’s budget and others favoring taking a knife to overall domestic spending.
GOP House members are slated to meet Wednesday morning to go over potential spending cuts and to remind members to stay on message during the negotiations to lift the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling to avoid arming Democrats with talking points, the Washington Post reported.
“There are different factions within our party that have different ideas and trying to come together and see what that might look like over the next couple of weeks and months,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) told the newspaper. “It’s a conversation that we need to have. We’ve got to have a plan.”
McCarthy said he agrees in principle that the debt ceiling must be raised, but also called for lawmakers to take responsibility.
“If my kid charges up the credit card, I’m responsible for those [charges]. But I’m also responsible that I’m not going to just raise the limit and move on the same way,” the California Republican told Punchbowl News.
Hovering over the talks is the basic mistrust each side has for the other.
McCarthy believes that Biden will have to come to the negotiating table at some point – now or this summer when the US government is faced with defaulting on its debt, which would send shockwaves throughout the world’s economy.
But the speaker told Punchbowl News that he’s worried the White House is not “serious.”
“The only thing I’m really going to gauge is do you want to negotiate or do you want to play politics. … I’m not going to play these games. So you tell me when you want to negotiate. If you think you can beat me up, I’m going to be reasonable. So the sooner we sit down, the sooner this doesn’t become a problem,” he told the publication.
“But we’re eventually going to have to dance together. So when do you want to play the music, now or later?” he added.
There’s skepticism at the White House, too.
Administration officials continue to call on Republicans to release a list of spending cuts they’re proposing to cut the deficit and to explain how those reductions would achieve those aims.
Pointing to the process last month to elect McCarthy as speaker on the 15th ballot amid contentious negotiations with different factions of the Republican Party, the White House remains skeptical that McCarthy could get his fellow caucus members to agree on any deal, Punchbowl reported.
It obtained a memo released Tuesday by Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, that spells out Biden’s position.
“As the President has said many times, the United States must never default on its financial obligations. Raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos,” the memo said.
The statement also noted that Biden will release his budget on March 9 and called on Republicans “likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit.”
With Post wires