President Joe Biden on Monday called the top four congressional leaders, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, to discuss raising the debt ceiling at the White House later this month, following months of an impasse between the president and House Republicans.
Biden’s calls came after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen notified lawmakers on Monday that the US could default on its debt by June 1.
Biden told the leaders – Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and McCarthy – that he wants to discuss on May 9 the need to pass a clean bill to raise the debt ceiling.
The president’s formal call for a meeting follows a months long standoff between Biden and Republicans over the debt ceiling issue.
Biden has not met with McCarthy since February, and earlier Monday the House speaker said he had not yet heard from the president about debt ceiling talks – despite the fact that the House passed a package to raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion last week. The bill also includes spending cuts, beefed-up work requirements in safety net programs and other measures that Democrats would not accept. Schumer has described the House legislation as “dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Following the bill’s passage in the House, the president told reporters he would be “happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended.” The White House has maintained that the president would only accept a clean proposal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.
McCarthy responded to Yellen’s comments Monday in a statement that said, “The clock is ticking.”
“After three months of the Biden administration’s inaction, the House acted, and there is a bill sitting in the Senate as we speak that would put the risk of default to rest,” McCarthy said. “The Senate and the President need to get to work — and soon.”
A White House official told CNN on Monday that at the proposed meeting with congressional leaders, Biden “will stress that Congress must take action to avoid default without conditions, and invited the four leaders to the White House to discuss the urgency of preventing default, as well as how to initiate a separate process to address the budget and fiscal year 2024 appropriations.”
Reaction from Capitol Hill underscored on Monday that partisan battle lines remain entrenched over the issue.
Republican senators urged Biden to get to the negotiating table with McCarthy, while Senate Democrats vowed they would not negotiate with Republicans on raising the debt limit.
Senate Minority Whip John Thune said the news that the US could default on June 1 if Congress does not act “reinforces” the need for Biden to negotiate with McCarthy. “Time’s a wasting,” the Republican from South Dakota said as he entered McConnell’s office.
But Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz accused Republicans of hostage taking and said Democrats would not give into that threat.
“This is not just abnormal, but reckless to take the American economy hostage and cannot be tolerated,” Schatz said. “The only thing scarier than not negotiating with these people is negotiating with them because they will never, ever stop holding Americans and the American economy hostage.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Ted Barrett, Nicky Robertson, Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, Betsy Klein and Tami Luhby contributed to this report.