McCarthy describes “good” first meeting with Biden, but “no deal” on debt ceiling

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden met privately Wednesday with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for more than an hour — their first in-person meeting since the Republican won the gavel.

There were no signs of a turnaround between the Democratic chairman and the Republican speaker on the most consequential item on their mutual to-do list: prevent a debt ceiling breach and avoid an economically disastrous default by year’s end. .

“I respect the conversation we had together,” McCarthy told reporters at the White House after the meeting, calling it “a good conversation” that yielded “no agreements, no promises, except that we’re going to continue this conversation.”

“We had different perspectives, but we both laid out some of our vision of where we want to go,” she said. “I can see where we can find common ground.”

He declined to divulge details, saying, “The president and I are trying to find a way we can work together and we will continue to do so.” When asked if cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table, McCarthy replied, “No, we’re not talking about that.”

On the eve of the meeting, the White House asked McCarthy to commit to avoiding default and to come up with a GOP plan. Biden and his aides have publicly stated that extending the debt ceiling is not negotiable.

McCarthy did not specify what Republicans want in exchange for extending the debt ceiling. “The only thing I know: our debt is too high, we have waste in our government.”

Ahead of the meeting, White House spokesman Andrew Bates accused Republicans of “threatening an unprecedented default unless a buyout of budget cuts they won’t name is paid.”

The desire for specificity also extends to some members of the GOP House.

During a meeting of the Private House Republican conference on Wednesday, Rep. Dan Crenshaw of Texas stood up and called on the McCarthy-led leadership team to be more specific about possible spending cuts, a source close to told NBC News. at the meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., told reporters that McCarthy should write a bill and pass it in the House.

“Speaker McCarthy shows up at the White House today without a plan — it’s like sitting at a table with no papers in hand,” he told reporters. “We Democrats have a plan, like I said: Raise the debt ceiling without calculated risk or hostage-taking just like it’s been done before.”

The White House has stressed that it is willing to negotiate on fiscal policy, but that such talks must be separated from the debt ceiling to prevent any possibility of default. Biden’s stance comes after the Obama administration acceded to debt limit negotiations in 2011, which brought the United States to the brink of disaster. Obama, Biden and their advisers have come to view this as a big mistake.

Ultimately, to avert a crisis, the House will need to pass a bill that Biden can sign and pass in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The initial attitude from the White House and Republican leaders points to a potential weakness that satisfies both sides’ red line: a bill that includes provisions the GOP can celebrate as a concession and Democrats can dismiss as a leaf. of fig.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks outside the West Wing of the White House after a meeting with President Joe Biden on Feb. 1, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP - Getty Images)

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks outside the West Wing of the White House after a meeting with President Joe Biden on Feb. 1, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP – Getty Images)

Some of the president’s Democratic allies believe Biden’s hardline will soften. They expect him to end up engaging in something that looks and sounds a lot like negotiation, whatever he chooses to call it. Biden is, by temperament, a moneymaker who has spent decades in politics striking deals in which neither side gets everything he wants but walks away with something satisfying.

“There will be a wink, a nod or a handshake in the areas where they can at least find a consensus,” predicted Leon Panetta, former budget director under Bill Clinton and later cabinet secretary in the Obama administration -Biden.

“Biden’s entire 40-year history of being willing to negotiate,” Panetta added. “That’s why he was successful on Capitol Hill: the willingness to negotiate. I suspect there will be a process here to determine whether or not there is a sincere effort to really enforce fiscal discipline.”

“There is a lot of politics and attitudes that have always been involved with limiting the debt. In the end, everyone knows it has to pass. That’s the only certainty there’s always been.”

A Democratic congressman warned that Biden risks appearing stubborn if the White House appears to avoid negotiations with Congress.

“I don’t agree with the ‘No Negotiations’ position,” said the congressman, speaking on condition of anonymity to criticize the White House. “Call them ‘discussions.’ Don’t be afraid to say: ‘We are discussing’”.

“I get what they’re doing with this dance: ‘Let the Republicans show their cards,'” the source said. “But I don’t like the posture of not engaging. I don’t think the public likes that response.

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