Biden, McCarthy to Meet May 9 on Debt Ceiling

May 2, 2023 by Dan McCue
Biden, McCarthy to Meet May 9 on Debt Ceiling
The White House (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will meet next Tuesday to begin discussions anew on raising the nation’s debt ceiling as the timeline for action grows ever smaller.

Biden invited McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to resume talks at the White House after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned on Monday that the nation could default on its debts by June 1.

As reported by The Well News, Yellen made her dire prediction in a letter sent to McCarthy Monday afternoon.

In it, she explained that while an exact prediction of when the so-called “X-date” will come, a review of recent federal tax receipts suggests it could come sooner rather than later.

In light of that review, “our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government’s obligations by early June, and potentially as early as June 1, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time.”

“This estimate is based on currently available data, as federal receipts and outlays are inherently variable, and the actual date that Treasury exhausts extraordinary measures could be a number of weeks later than these estimates,” she said.

“Given the current projections,” Yellen added, “it is imperative that Congress act as soon as possible to increase or suspend the debt limit in a way that provides longer-term certainty that the government will continue to make its payments.”

The president and McCarthy have not met to discuss the debt ceiling since Feb. 2.

McCarthy emerged from that meeting and smiled as he addressed reporters outside the West Wing of the White House.

“The president and I had a good meeting,” McCarthy said as he stepped up to “the sticks” — a stand of waiting microphones — and a throng of waiting reporters.

“I shared my perspective, he shared his, and we agreed to continue the conversation. We want to make sure we do it in a responsible, reasonable way,” he said.

Since then, the Republican-controlled House has passed a package — the “Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023,” which would raise the debt ceiling into next year, but also included scores of provisions — like rolling back incentives for renewable energy and other measures intended to address climate change — that Democrats simply won’t accept.

Following the bill’s passage in the House, Schumer declared it “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

The White House Office of Management and Budget delivered a similar message on April 25.

Despite the ensuing war of words between the White House and Republicans on Capitol Hill, Biden repeatedly told reporters he would be “happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended.” 

On Tuesday, a White House official reiterated that during their meeting next week, “President Biden will stress that Congress must take action to avoid default without conditions.”

The president is also expected to discuss how to begin a separate process to address differences over the fiscal year 2024 federal budget, the official said.

McCarthy responded to Yellen’s letter on Monday with a written statement in which he said, “After three months of the Biden administration’s inaction, the House acted, and there is a bill sitting in the Senate as we speak that would put the risk of default to rest.”

“The Senate and the president need to get to work — and soon,” he said.

On Tuesday, Schumer responded from the Senate floor, accusing the House speaker of refusing to listen to reason and caving to extremists.

“By passing the Default on America Act [the Democrats’ derisive name for the GOP proposal], he’s handed the keys over to the House Freedom Caucus, many of whom are more than happy to let the U.S. default if they don’t get every last cut — and every last unrelated, hard right policy — that have been added to this bill chock-a-block,” the Senate majority leader said.

“As one House Freedom Caucus member said plainly: Speaker McCarthy ‘cannot get to 218 with changes to this deal,’” Schumer said.

“But, as is obvious to just about anyone who looks at this, the Default on America Act has no future in the Senate. Consequently, Speaker McCarthy has created a situation where he knowingly passed an extreme bill, has been boxed by his Republican colleagues into a corner, and now has little room to maneuver, lest he provoke the ire of the House Freedom Caucus,” he continued.

“Speaker McCarthy is giving us two terrible options: either default on the debt or default on our country. … The only real option that does not hurt the American people is a clean bipartisan bill to avert default,” Schumer said.

On Thursday, Senate Democrats will hold the first of what they promise will be a series of hearings aimed at showing how the Republican proposal “will weaken our economy and slash hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

The first hearing will be held by the Senate Budget Committee.

“It will be the very first legislative hearing in either house that looks at what Default on America does,” Schumer said.

“If Republicans want to sell their awful agenda to the American people, they are welcome to do so in debates about the budget and the appropriations process. That’s where these debates should happen, not in the middle of a default crisis that now stares us in the face,” he said.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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