Biden and McCarthy to Meet in Hopes of Breaking Debt Limit Stalemate

POLITICS: Biden and McCarthy to Meet in Hopes of Breaking Debt Limit Stalemate

President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet on Monday afternoon in an effort to break the partisan stalemate that has prevented action to avert a default on the nation’s debt, after negotiations faltered over the weekend over Republicans’ demands to cut spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.

The meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at the White House, comes after negotiators clashed and Republicans declared an abrupt halt to the bipartisan talks days ago, only to pick them back up again after Mr. McCarthy appealed to Mr. Biden for another face-to-face meeting. Late Sunday, Mr. Biden said he had spoken with Mr. McCarthy on the flight home from the Group of 7 summit in Japan, saying it “went well.”

Still, the two sides remained at loggerheads with the United States at risk of defaulting for the first time within days. The White House has called Republicans’ demands for spending cuts extreme, while Mr. McCarthy and his aides have accused White House officials of being unreasonable.

Mr. McCarthy reiterated on Monday ahead of the meeting that House Republicans would not back down from their demand for cuts, saying the G.O.P. would continue to insist on capping spending at last year’s levels while allowing military spending to grow.

“I don’t think you should put America in jeopardy,” Mr. McCarthy said, calling reductions to the Pentagon’s budget “off the table.”

Here are the issues to watch:

  • The number of legislative days for Congress to vote to raise the debt ceiling before the projected June 1 deadline is rapidly dwindling. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen on Monday reiterated her warning to Congress that the United States could be unable to pay its bills as soon as June 1. She said in an interview with NBC News over the weekend that the odds of the government getting to mid-June before defaulting were “quite low.”

  • The two sides are clashing over spending limits. Republicans want to allow military spending to increase while cutting other programs. But they have shown some flexibility around how long they would seek to cap spending overall, coming down from their initial demand of a decade to six years. Still, that is longer than Mr. Biden wants. White House officials have proposed holding both military and other spending — which includes education, scientific research and environmental protection — constant over the next two years.

  • Progressives have been pushing the president to consider invoking a clause in the 14th Amendment that would compel the government to continue issuing new debt should it run out of cash. But Mr. Biden has been openly skeptical that the measure would work. The ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus has urged Mr. McCarthy not to negotiate, saying he must insist on a House-passed bill that would cut spending by an average of 18 percent over a decade in exchange for raising the debt limit.

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