The White House made two intense demands to incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy before the president’s first meeting with him on Wednesday.
Biden intends to ask McCarthy, R-Calif., to “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default” and to outline his specific plan to reduce the deficit if he wants to attach it to an extension of the debt ceiling, according to a memo distributed Tuesday by top White House advisers Brian Deese and Shalanda Young.
McCarthy responded on Twitter: “Mr. President: I received your staff’s memo. I’m not interested in political games. I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”
Asked about Biden’s demand for his assurances that the U.S. won’t default, McCarthy told reporters Tuesday: “It’s irresponsible to say as the leader of the free world to say he’s not going to negotiate. I hope that’s just his staff and not him.”
Biden chastised McCarthy for making “off-the-wall” promises to other Republicans to maintain his position at a Democratic National Committee luncheon later on Tuesday.
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The Democratic president and Republican speaker have been publicly arguing, and this suggests that the meeting is unlikely to be successful in ending the deadlock over the item that is highest on both of their to-do lists: preventing an economically risky default before what the Treasury Department says is a June 5 deadline for Congress to act.
The White House reiterated its tough stance against the GOP in a statement only hours before the meeting.
“After months of advocating for slashing Medicare and Social Security benefits, Congressional Republicans owe the American people an answer: will you match President Biden and commit to release your plan for the economy? Yes or no?” White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said, adding, “What are House Republicans hiding?”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, demanded that GOP leaders get more specific about potential spending cuts during a closed-door Republican meeting on Wednesday, according to a source familiar with the meeting.
Biden maintains that he will not compromise on policy to pay the obligations Congress has legally placed on the United States. As he faces pressure from GOP hard-liners to use the debt limit deadline as leverage to make the Senate and the White House accept spending cuts, McCarthy mocks Biden’s stance as reckless and irresponsible. Republicans, however, have not stated what they intend to cut.
The White House wants to show that the small House Republican majority lacks a comprehensive spending reduction strategy by making these demands. According to experts, a plan to balance the budget over a 10-year period, as some conservatives have demanded, would necessitate lower military, Social Security, or Medicare spending and higher taxes. Republicans disagree over whether and how to attack those money pots.
Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, a Democrat, stated that Democrats support Biden’s decision not to tack on any additional policy measures to a debt ceiling extension.
“We are entirely united. Before they even begin, they are involved in a car accident, he claimed. They are unaware of their budget. They are unsure of what they are asking for. They only seem to be under the impression that this is where trouble should be caused. And it is ineffective. It will fail. From 2011, we’ve taken a lesson.
“The quicker they understand that they have to solve this problem for themselves, the better off they will be, and the better off the country will be,” he said. “There’s no room for negotiation around the debt limit. The debt limit question is about whether or not America pays its bills. And if they want to connect it to any other extraneous item, I’m a no.”
The US was on the verge of default in 2011 when then-President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden attempted to negotiate a debt limit pact with a GOP-led House. They nearly escaped it, but according to sources engaged in those discussions, Obama and Biden later grew to regret the tactic and promised to keep the meetings of the debt limit and fiscal policy apart.
‘Like a first date
When he met with McCarthy on Tuesday, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the meeting with Biden would be “a get-to-know-you, like a first date.”
McCarthy and Biden have never met, and their styles are very different.
The Republican Party’s burgeoning Donald Trump side, which McCarthy has welcomed, is the target of Biden’s goal to demolish the party politically. Biden was long known as an old-school moderate. McCarthy’s ascent is primarily attributable to his extraordinary relationship-builder abilities, whereas Biden ascended the ranks in Washington as a deal-making institutionalist. Additionally, there is a generational divide: McCarthy was only 7 years old when Biden won his first Senate election.
“It’s probably not going to be a warm and intimate relationship,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said. “I think it’s going to be more transactional. But I think both of them share the view that you can’t breach the debt ceiling. So that’s a start.”
Biden’s budget is due in March, and according to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., Republicans will “work to meet our deadline” by passing a budget in the House by April.
According to Sen. Rick Scott, R-Florida, it should be Biden’s responsibility to put forth a debt ceiling bill that Congress can approve.
“I’m not sure why he’s reluctant to take that action. He wants to raise the debt ceiling, after all,” Scott said. “He should be carrying it out. The president is him.
“He’s got the authority to do this on his own, by the way. It’s clear that Treasury Department has a right to make sure we don’t default on our debt,” Scott added.
As President Biden welcomes Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for a highly anticipated one-on-one meeting Wednesday, the White House is making one thing clear: There will be no negotiations on the debt ceiling. pic.twitter.com/8RtJmMtdpq
— Sophia Lambert 🇺🇸 (@DV16FDS5V) February 1, 2023
Later, a Scott spokesperson clarified that he did not mean “Biden can lift the debt ceiling whenever he wants,” but rather that the Treasury Department can prioritize payments to creditors if the United States exceeds the limit.
The Biden administration insisted that Congress must take action to stop a US debt default.
“It’s utterly essential that Congress raise the debt ceiling, and this has been the position of every Treasury secretary from both parties,” a Treasury Department spokesperson said in a statement. “We cannot negotiate over whether or not we’re going to honor our obligations, it’s simply a must that we have to.”