House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) described his first round of talks with President Joe Biden over the debt ceiling controversy as fruitful. McCarthy said the two “had a good first meeting” and found “common ground.”
McCarthy and Biden met for almost 90 minutes on Wednesday for discussions on raising the U.S. government borrowing limits. The Republican-led House and the Biden administration are squaring off over hiking the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling.
Prior to the meeting, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said her boss “is looking forward to working closely and trying to figure out how we can deliver with Republicans who are willing to work in a good faith, bipartisan way.”
The White House reported after the two met that the president is eager to work with congressional Republicans “in good faith.” There was, however, no indication that a breakthrough was reached.
"McCarthy said he wouldn’t propose cuts to Medicare or Social Security for debt reduction.
“ 'The speaker has indicated that’s off the table right now,” said GOP Rep Carter. 'everyone understands politically the timing may not be right' " https://t.co/f7T9P8E3RF
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) February 2, 2023
There are very likely many months of negotiations going back and forth before the situation reaches crisis level in June. Without an agreement, the federal government would be unable to meet its financial obligations and sink into default.
McCarthy, however, expressed his belief that this result is not inevitable.
The Speaker said that “if we’re able to get to an agreement, we could have a funding agreement for the next two years.” In this case, he added, both congressional chambers will “actually do the job the American public has elected us to do.”
The White House has so far dug in its heels against GOP demands that spending cuts be enacted to offset the debt ceiling increase.
Biden earlier expressed willingness to discuss lowering federal expenditures, but only after the debt ceiling is raised. On the other hand, Republicans are attempting to use the need for a debt ceiling increase as leverage to bargain for spending cuts.
Since regaining control of the House in the November elections, the GOP has signaled that it is anything but business as usual. Normal procedure is for a bipartisan agreement to lift the debt limitation on the federal government without regard to the ever-increasing national debt.
And while early signs are positive, neither side showed willingness to back away from their core position. Whatever common ground McCarthy and Biden found will have to be built on by June in order to avoid a government shutdown.