House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not leave his much-anticipated meeting at the White House on Wednesday with an agreement to resolve the debt ceiling, but signaled optimism that both he and President Joe Biden “long before” the United States defaults, can reach a consensus.
McCarthy and the president exchanged political jabs before the meeting – and thwarted their negotiations with red lines leaked to the press and social media. But as the new Speaker of the House emerged from the West Wing on Wednesday, he had an unexpectedly hopeful tone, stressing that he believes they can come to an agreement, though he remains adamant about a key demand from the White House to refuse.
McCarthy told reporters after the meeting that he had told Biden that the House of Representatives would not pass a “clean” debt ceiling with no strings attached.
When asked what he offered the President, McCarthy said: “The only thing I’ve heard in the last month is that I’m not going to negotiate with you. I just sat in the Oval Office with the President for an hour discussing what we can do about a debt ceiling. So the first launch is, okay, this is different than last month.”
The US hit the debt ceiling set by Congress in January, forcing the Treasury Department to take extraordinary measures to help the government pay its bills and escalating pressure on Capitol Hill to avoid a catastrophic default later that year.
The White House and the New House GOP majority were at odds over how to find a way to raise the debt limit, and while McCarthy called it “a good first meeting,” he also noted that they still have “differing perspectives on it.” to have. ”
“I think at the end of the day we can find common ground,” he added.
McCarthy said he told Biden he wanted to “get an agreement well before the deadline and we can start working on other things.” And a White House statement said Biden “underlined his commitment to continue working in good faith across the aisle” and to continue talks with the spokesman.
At the meeting, the White House statement said, President McCarthy “made it clear” that it was a shared duty not to allow the nation to default.
After his first meeting at the White House since winning the speakership, McCarthy said he believed a funding agreement could be reached for the next two years and that “you won’t see any more omnibuses.”
“You will see the Senate and House of Representatives actually doing what the American public voted them to do,” he added.
The White House also said Biden “welcomes a separate discussion with congressional leaders on how to reduce the deficit and control public debt while the economy continues to grow.”
House Republicans have said raising the borrowing limit must be coupled with spending cuts. And the White House previously said it would not make concessions or negotiate a debt ceiling hike.
The fight over the debt limit was seen as an early test of McCarthy’s leadership, balancing competing demands from various factions at his conference amid a razor-thin majority. It also shows how well McCarthy and Biden can work together.
Senate Republicans have indicated they will sit back and see how the House GOP finds a way to raise the $31.4 trillion credit limit — before deciding whether to interfere in the process.
Republicans face a political risk in pushing for spending cuts: If they propose cuts to popular government programs and services, they could face a public backlash.
McCarthy prepared for the White House meeting by consulting regularly with allies on and off the hill, sources familiar with the preparation told CNN.
This week, McCarthy and his GOP allies in the House of Representatives started making demands, debating steep cuts in domestic programs and a cut in defense spending — while staying away from two programs to avoid voter backlash: Medicare and Social Security.
House Republicans had hoped to strengthen their negotiating position with the White House by agreeing on a proposal, but finding a conference-wide consensus on spending cuts has proved difficult.
Republicans’ view ahead of Wednesday’s meeting was that it’s still early days and there are still months of negotiations ahead — meaning McCarthy has plenty of time to lay out details. Nevertheless, the leaders are also aware that they now have to lay the foundations with their members.
While the rhetoric in statements by McCarthy and the White House was relatively scaled back after Wednesday’s meeting, both parties had used the past week to stall negotiations.
McCarthy’s position that cuts to Medicare and Social Security in exchange for a debt ceiling hike are not on the table has long left the White House skeptical.
And in a memo to “interested parties” Monday, authored by National Economic Council director Brian Deese and Office of Management and Budget director Shalanda Young, Biden’s top economic adviser said the president intended McCarthy two questions on Wednesday: whether McCarthy will commit to the US defaulting on its financial commitments and when McCarthy and House Republicans will release their budget.
A day before the meeting, the president suggested that McCarthy would enter the talks from a weakened position, hampered by agreements he made with an unruly GOP conference.
Biden called McCarthy a “decent man” yet said he was forced to cater to extremist Republicans in order to become a spokesman.
Biden said at a high-paying fundraiser in Manhattan that McCarthy had to make commitments “that are utterly inappropriate for the Speaker of the House.”
In response to the President’s comments on the fundraiser, McCarthy told reporters, “Apparently he doesn’t understand … I look forward to sitting down with the President and negotiating for the American public, the people of America, how we can find savings.” . We’ve watched what spending has done, we’ve watched how it’s brought us inflation, we’ve watched the challenge it’s created. We look forward to the change of course.”
This story was updated on Wednesday with additional developments.