President Biden, Speaker McCarthy Reach Critical Week Of Negotiations For Debt Ceiling

What looks to be a critical week in negotiations to avoid an unprecedented and economically devastating debt default has started with another meeting between Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

Monday, May 22nd 2023, 5:50 pm



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What looks to be a critical week in negotiations to avoid an unprecedented and economically devastating debt default has started with another meeting between Democratic President Joe Biden and Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

The meeting comes after a shaky few days of on-again, off-again talks between the President's and Speaker's respective teams and with potentially just ten days before Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says the government will no longer be able to pay all of its bills.

The two principals felt some positive momentum going into Monday's meeting, following what each agreed was a positive discussion Sunday night as the President flew home from the G-7 summit in Japan.

"I believe it was a productive phone call," Rep. McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters at the Capitol Sunday.

"It went well," President Biden said as he arrived at the White House.

The question was whether that optimism could help break what negotiators Monday indicated has become a stalemate on a couple of major issues, although not specifying which ones.

"We're at a very sensitive point here," said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), a lead negotiator for McCarthy, "and the goal is to get something that can be legislated into law."

Reports suggest the White House is offering to hold spending for FY 2024, including on defense, at FY 2023 levels; Republicans want to boost defense spending while cutting other domestic programs enough to see an overall decrease.

"We have to spend less money than we spent last year," McCarthy said to reporters, repeating the GOP's mantra for the debt ceiling negotiation.

Speaker McCarthy again criticized the President for, he says, squandering more than three months when they could have been working through the tough issues before them now. He says, if Secretary Yellen is to be taken at her word, then time is running out for them to strike a deal that Congress can act on.

"We can get a deal tonight, we can get a deal tomorrow," said McCarthy, "but you've got to get something done this week to be able to pass it and move it to the Senate."

In 2019, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) demanded the Trump administration lift spending caps as a condition of getting Democrats' support for a debt ceiling increase. Republicans like Oklahoma Senator James Lankford say this is really no different and only now, Republicans are demanding spending caps be put back on.

"This is a normal process of a debt ceiling negotiation," said Sen. Lankford (R-OK) in an interview last week, "but it’s good that everybody’s actually sitting down and walking through the process."

The outcome of Monday's meeting should go a long way toward determining just where the two sides are in that process.

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