McCarthy: Debt ceiling meeting with Biden ‘productive’ but no agreement yet

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) emerged Monday evening from a roughly hour-long meeting with President Biden on the debt ceiling saying the latest conversation was “productive,” but that the two sides still don’t have an agreement on how to avoid default just days until the deadline.

“I felt we had a productive discussion. We don’t have an agreement yet,” McCarthy told reporters after the Oval Office meeting.

McCarthy said he believed the tone of the meeting was “better than any other time we’ve had discussions.” The Speaker also praised the negotiators Biden appointed to work on a deal, calling them “intelligent,” “professional” and “respectful.”

But there are still clear philosophical differences that the two sides must overcome.

Biden, for example, has argued reforming the tax system to account for government revenue should be on the table in negotiations. The president said at the start of Monday’s meeting that the two sides should be looking at closing tax loopholes and ensuring wealthy Americans pay “their fair share.”

But McCarthy said after Monday’s meeting that “the problem is not revenue, the problem is spending.” The Speaker also ruled out defense cuts as part of any final package.

Asked if there were any areas of agreement, McCarthy reiterated that the talks were productive but struggled to detail specific common ground.

“I think we both agree we want to be able to come to an agreement,” he said. “We both agree on the areas that we know there’s disagreement on.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), who also attended the White House meeting and has been in negotiations with administration officials in recent days, said the conversation between McCarthy and Biden provided clarity for ongoing talks.

“It told us as the negotiating team a little more of the details we need to get to a package, a package that can pass Congress,” he said.

In a statement issued roughly an hour after the meeting, Biden also called the meeting “productive.”

“We reiterated once again that default is off the table and the only way to move forward is in good faith toward a bipartisan agreement,” Biden said. “While there are areas of disagreement, the Speaker and I, and his lead negotiators Chairman McHenry and Congressman Graves, and our staffs will continue to discuss the path forward.”

Monday’s meeting came after a roller coaster few days in negotiations, which saw both Biden and McCarthy project optimism late last week only for talks to falter over the weekend. The two leaders spoke on the phone on Sunday as Biden was traveling back from the Group of Seven (G7) Summit in Japan.

McCarthy said shortly before Monday’s meeting that he still believed an agreement was possible in time to avert a default. But he has been adamant that such a deal must be struck soon so it can be voted on in the House, sent to the Senate and approved there before heading to the White House for Biden’s signature.

The White House and McCarthy have both acknowledged that any deal must be bipartisan because of the narrow Republican majority in the House and the tight Democratic majority in the Senate.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in a letter to congressional leaders on Monday warned that it was “highly likely” the U.S. will not be able to pay all of its debts if lawmakers do not act by early June, and “potentially as early as June 1.”

Officials have for weeks cautioned that if the U.S. were to default, or even come close to it, it would have severe economic consequences and potentially trigger a recession.
Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher is the editor and publisher of High Plains Pundit. Dan is also the host of the popular High Plains Pundit Podcast.

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