WASHINGTON — President Biden will meet with Chairman Kevin McCarthy at the White House on Tuesday in a critical face-to-face confrontation that will outline their standoff over federal debt and spending in the weeks before the nation defaults for the first time in history.
With the U.S. and perhaps global economy hanging in the balance, the meeting will be the first sit-down between a Democratic president and a Republican speaker since February. But even the terms of the discussion are contentious: Mr. McCarthy insists the president negotiate a deal with him on the debt ceiling, while Mr. Biden insists the meeting will simply be an opportunity to tell the speaker there will be no talks on the limit .
The Oval Office meeting will be attended by Mr. Biden, Mr. McCarthy and three other congressional leaders: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the House Democratic leader, and Senators Chuck Schumer of New York and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky , the Democrat and Republican leaders in the Senate. But Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy are the key players engaged in a political game of chicken to see who will blink first at raising the debt ceiling.
With the federal government expected to default on its debt as soon as June 1 without a deal, Mr. McCarthy and his Republican caucus have refused to raise the debt ceiling without commitments to major spending cuts. Mr. Biden said he would discuss ways to reduce the deficit, but declined to link any spending decisions to raising the debt ceiling, arguing that Congress should simply raise the ceiling as it has done for generations. to pay for already approved expenses.
“It should not be House Republicans creating a crisis over something that has been done 78 times since 1960,” White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Monday. “This is their constitutional obligation. Congress must act. That is what the President will make very clear with the leaders tomorrow.
The meeting Mr. Biden called, she added, would not include any bargaining over the debt ceiling. “I wouldn’t call it ‘debt ceiling negotiations,'” she said in response to a reporter using that phrase. “I would call it a conversation.” In fact, she was so determined to call it a “conversation” that she used the word to describe the meeting 15 times during her briefing.
Neither side expects a breakthrough at the 4pm session, but leaders instead plan to use it to highlight their positions in the dispute, effectively setting the parameters for the debate that will play out over the next few weeks . In recent years, such oppositions have not been resolved until the final hours and days before the deadline – or the deadline has been extended.
Mr. Biden has indicated that he is willing to hold a separate discussion with Mr. McCarthy and Republicans on spending that is not directly related to the debt ceiling legislation. White House officials said the president plans to push Republicans to consider the tax increases and prescription drug savings he laid out in his latest budget, which would reduce deficits by about $3 trillion over 10 years, as part of a -a large package to reduce debt accumulation over time.
He is likely to challenge Republicans at Tuesday’s meeting to be more specific about the spending they would cut. He has been hammering them for more than a week about the potential consequences — such as reduced funding for veterans health services — that could arise from the discretionary spending caps they included in the debt ceiling bill that passed the House late last month .
Republicans bristled at the president’s attacks on their legislation, calling them misleading. But they noted that, unlike Democrats, they at least passed a measure to raise the debt ceiling, albeit conditional on spending cuts. They argued that Mr. Biden and his Democratic allies should come to the table with a counterproposal. Otherwise, they argue, Democrats, not Republicans, will be the ones who failed to raise the debt ceiling, leading to an eventual bankruptcy.
“Now they need to step up and act as responsible leaders,” Congressman Jody S. Arrington, R-Texas and chairman of the House Budget Committee, said on CNBC on Monday. “We did that, and we set that example, and we put in their hands a list of proposals that we reached consensus on.” It is time for them to respond, and the American people expect them to do so.