President Biden on Thursday promised to work closely with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a pledge of bipartisanship at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
During his remarks, just one day after convening high-stakes debt ceiling talks with the speaker, Mr. Biden called on Washington to bridge the growing political divide in the country.
“My prayer for this prayer breakfast is to start to see each other again,” he said. “Look at each other, argue like hell with each other again, but then still go to lunch together.”
“Let’s start treating each other with respect,” the president said. “That’s what Kevin and I are going to do. I think we’ve got to do it across the board.”
Mr. Biden’s prayer for unity echoes his more recent calls for bipartisanship as Republicans gained the majority in the House.
On Wednesday, Mr. Biden put that pledge to the test during his one-on-one debt ceiling talks with Mr. McCarthy, California Democrat, as the clock ticks down on the nation’s borrowing limit.
The talks capped weeks of partisan back-and-forth over Republican demands that the White House and Democratic-led Senate agree to negotiate spending levels before the House raises the nation’s borrowing limit.
Last month, the Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” to stave off default when the government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing capacity. Those emergency measures are expected to give the government enough breathing room to cover day-to-day expenses until the summer.
Mr. Biden initially balked at Mr. McCarthy’s demands for negotiations. He called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling “without conditions” and accused Republicans of using the full faith and credit of the nation as a bargaining chip in their quest to cut vital programs such as Social Security.
The president later agreed to meet with Mr. McCarthy. Republicans saw it as a win for the party but cautioned that they were still far from declaring victory on the debt ceiling.
Mr. McCarthy emerged from the White House with the negotiations still up in the air, but voicing optimism that his hour-long conversation with Mr. Biden set a new tone after two years of single-party rule.
“The president and I had a good first meeting,” he said. “We have different perspectives, but we both laid out some of our vision of where we want to get to. I believe, after laying all of that out, I can see where we can find common ground. I think the American people would appreciate that.”