President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet Wednesday, a White House official confirmed, the first such gathering since the California Republican captured the speakership earlier this month.
The meeting comes as the Treasury Department continues to take extraordinary measures to keep the government paying its bills after the US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress.
“I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending,” McCarthy said Sunday on “Face the Nation” on CBS.
“So I want to sit down together, work out an agreement that we can move forward to put us on a path to balance at the same time, not put any of our debt in jeopardy at the same time,” he said.
Hard-line Republicans, who hold significant sway in the House because of their party’s slim majority, have demanded that lifting the borrowing cap be tied to spending reductions.
The White House, however, has countered that it will not offer any concessions or negotiate on raising the debt ceiling. And with the solution to the debt ceiling drama squarely in lawmakers’ hands, fears are growing that the partisan brinksmanship could result in the nation defaulting on its debt for the first time ever – or come dangerously close to doing so.
In the meeting, Biden will remind McCarthy of his “Constitutional obligation to prevent a national default, as every other House and Senate leader in U.S. history has done, and as Leaders McConnell, Schumer, and Jeffries have pledged to do,” a spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “He will underscore that the economic security of all Americans cannot be held hostage to force unpopular cuts on working families.”
The spokesperson added, “The President will ask what the Speaker’s plan is, since the first bill he put on the floor would increase the deficit by more than $100 billion in order to protect wealthy tax cheats and other proposals from House Republicans would cut Social Security, Medicare, and other critical programs that working families and seniors have earned.”
McCarthy on Sunday suggested that defense spending could potentially be on the table, but he made clear that cuts to Social Security and Medicare weren’t an option.
“I first think, our very first responsibility, we both should have to pass a budget. We both should have to pass the appropriation bills so the country can see the direction we’re going. But you cannot continue the spending that has brought this inflation, that has brought our economic problems. We’ve got to get our spending under control,” he said.
Earlier this month, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the two men would meet on a range of topics, but insisted that raising the debt limit was “not negotiable.”
“President Biden looks forward to meeting with Speaker McCarthy to discuss a range of issues, as part of a series of meetings with all new Congressional leaders to start the year,” Jean-Pierre said. “Like the President has said many times, raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos.”