Biden, McCarthy to discuss debt limit in talks
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Sunday he is looking forward to discussing with President Joe Biden a “reasonable and responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling ” when the two meet Wednesday for their first sitdown at the White House since McCarthy was elected to the post.
McCarthy, R-Calif., said he wants to address spending cuts along with raising the debt limit, even though the White House has ruled out linking those two issues together as the government tries to avoid a potentially devastating financial default.
The speaker pledged that cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be off the table.
“I know the president said he didn't want to have any discussion (on cuts), but I think it's very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise,” McCarthy told CBS' “Face the Nation.” “I want to sit down together, work out an agreement that we can move forward to put us on a path to balance — and at the same time not put any of our debt in jeopardy at the same time.”
Asked whether he would make a guarantee, McCarthy said, "There will not be a default,” though he suggested that declaration depended on the willingness of Biden and Democrats to negotiate.
After McCarthy disclosed the upcoming meeting during the television interview, the White House provided confirmation.
McCarthy was elected speaker on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot early on Jan. 7, overcoming holdouts from his own ranks and tensions that have tested the new GOP majority ability to govern.
Word of the long-awaited White House meeting comes at a time of divided government in Washington with a debt ceiling crisis brewing and House Republicans ready for confrontation.
McCarthy has been eager to push Biden to the negotiating table, hoping to make good on the promises the GOP leader made to holdouts during his campaign to become speaker to pare federal spending back to 2022 budget levels, which would be a sizable 8% budget cut.
The White House has made clear that Biden is not willing to entertain policy concessions in exchange for lifting the debt limit, which is the nation's borrowing authority. The United States bumped up against that limit earlier this month, and the Treasury Department has deployed “extraordinary measures” to stave off a potential default for at least a few more months.
Biden himself has scoffed at the idea of negotiating spending cuts.
On Sunday, when McCarthy was asked if he would push cuts to those programs, he said, “Let's take those off the table.” Pressed on possible defense cuts that he may have promised to House conservatives, McCarthy responded: “I want to eliminate waste wherever it is . ... I want to look at every single department.”