WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 17: U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attend the Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. Biden joined Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other members of Congress for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Friends of Ireland Luncheon. (D-MA). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Drew Angerer | Getty Images News | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — White House negotiators and representatives of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy resumed debt ceiling talks Monday morning, as President Joe Biden prepared to meet with McCarthy face to face with only 10 days to go until the U.S. risks default.
The talks came after a dramatic weekend during which negotiations broke down Friday over an apparent impasse on government spending levels but resumed several hours later.
Biden and McCarthy spoke by phone Sunday evening, a conversation they described as “productive” and which could set the stage for anticipated progress toward a deal in the first part of this week. Biden and McCarthy are set to meet at 5:30 p.m. ET Monday in the Oval Office.
The White House team, composed of presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell, declined to speak with reporters as they walked into the Capitol for talks with McCarthy’s side Monday.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reaffirmed on Sunday that June 1 is the government’s “hard deadline” to raise the debt limit or face a likely first ever national debt default.
“We expect to be unable to pay all of our bills in early June, and possibly as soon as June 1,” Yellen told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“My assessment is that the odds of reaching June 15 while being able to pay all of our bills is quite low,” she said, with the caveat that there would always be uncertainty about exact revenue and payments.
Both Biden and McCarthy have acknowledged that one of the main sticking points in the talks remains the question of spending caps, a key GOP demand but a red line so far for the White House. Raising the debt limit would not authorize new spending, but Republicans have insisted on sweeping cuts to government outlays as part of a deal to hike the borrowing limit.
“The underlying issue here is that Democrats, since they took the majority, have been addicted to spending. And that’s going to stop. We’re going to spend less than we spent last year,” McCarthy said to reporters Monday morning in the Capitol.
Biden is hoping to reach a debt limit deal that would push the next deadline out past the 2024 presidential election. But House Republicans, who so far have endorsed only a one-year hike, say that if Biden wants more time, then he will need to agree to even more cuts.
Over the weekend, the president also faulted Republicans for demanding that huge chunks of federal discretionary spending be exempted from their proposed topline budget cuts, including defense and potentially veterans health benefits.
If these categories were actually to be exempted, Biden explained, then cuts to all the other discretionary spending would need to be much deeper in order to make up the difference.
Across-the-board cuts like these “make absolutely no sense at all,” Biden said Sunday in Japan, where he was attending the Group of Seven Summit. “It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely, solely, on their partisan terms.”