President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are huddling in the White House once again on Monday evening, as time runs short for them to strike a debt ceiling deal.
At the top of their meeting, Mr. Biden said he and the speaker agree default isn’t an option, and they agree on the need to reduce the federal deficit. But the president said Congress needs to look at tax loopholes. McCarthy said the two have disagreements, but can agree the United States’ debt is too large.
“We’re optimistic we may be able to make some progress,” Mr. Biden said.
The president cut short his trip to Asia, returning from Japan late Sunday night so he could work toward a deal in the final days before the June 1 deadline. Mr. Biden and McCarthy spoke on the phone while the president was aboard Air Force One en route back to Washington, and negotiators designated by the president and speaker have been trying to reach an agreement on a framework.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated Monday that the U.S. could be unable to pay its bills and could default on its debt as soon as June 1, although that date could still slide in either direction. And it will take time to pass any legislation through both chambers of Congress, even once the president and McCarthy reach an agreement.
On Friday, negotiators on the Hill appeared to reach an impasse, and took a brief break from talks. On Saturday, McCarthy tweeted the White House was “moving backwards in negotiations,” blaming the “socialist wing of the Democrat Party” for the stall.
Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina told reporters after leaving debt ceiling negotiations Monday morning that talks are at a “sensitive” place.
A White House official says the speaker and the president agreed Tuesday that the final product must be bipartisan. But the official claimed that toward the end of the week, the speaker’s team moved away from some of the options that were being discussed. For example, the White House official said, the speaker’s team proposed an additional cut to food assistance that wasn’t in the House-passed bill, and caps on annual funding three times longer than recent budget deals.
But McHenry said it’s “not the case” that Republicans are pushing beyond the House GOP bill.
Mr. Biden began a press conference in Hiroshima, Japan, by saying he’d put forth more than $1 trillion in spending cuts, and “now it’s time for the other side to move their extreme positions because much of what they’ve already proposed is simply quite frankly, unacceptable.”
The president said he couldn’t promise world leaders gathered for the G-7 talks that the U.S. wouldn’t default on its debt.
“I can’t guarantee that they will not force a default by doing something outrageous,” Mr. Biden said of Republicans.
McCarthy on Sunday told reporters his conversation with the president on Sunday “went well.”
The speaker plans to take reporters’ questions at 7 p.m.