President Biden said he plans to meet with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to discuss raising the debt ceiling despite his firm demands earlier this week that Congress raise the nation’s borrowing limit “without conditions.”
The president opened the door to a discussion with the California Republican during a White House event on Friday with city mayors.
“We’re going to have a little discussion on that,” he said. “If we don’t meet our national debt and renege for the first time, we have a calamity that exceeds anything that’s ever happened financially in the United States.”
Mr. McCarthy quickly seized on the president’s comments soon after the event.
“I accept your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending,” Mr. McCarthy wrote on Twitter. “I look forward to our meeting.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attempted to walk back expectations from the meeting, stating later Friday that Mr. Biden planned to meet with the speaker “as part of a series of meetings with all new Congressional leaders to start the year.”
“Like the President has said many times, raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “Congress has always done it, and the President expects them to do their duty once again. That is not negotiable.”
The Treasury Department began taking “extraordinary measures” on Thursday to stave off a debt default as the government reached its $38.381 trillion borrowing capacity.
Those emergency accounting measures are expected to give the government enough breathing room to cover day-to-day expenses until early June.
“As I stated in my January 13 letter, the period of time that extraordinary measures may last is subject to considerable uncertainty, including the challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. government months into the future,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a letter to Congress. “I respectfully urge Congress to act promptly to protect the full faith and credit of the United States.”
Mr. McCarthy warned earlier in the week that the House GOP will not increase the debt limit unless the Democrat-led Senate and White House agree to cuts in the face of an unwieldy national debt.
The White House warned in response that tying budget talks to the debt ceiling would be a non-starter.
In her statement on Friday, Ms. Jean-Pierre criticized Republican budget plans, which she said aim to cut vital social safety nets and raise taxes.
“We are going to have a clear debate on two different visions for the country – one that cuts Social Security, and one that protects it – and the President is happy to discuss that with the Speaker,” she said.
• Joseph Clark can be reached at email@example.com.
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