Biden and McCarthy to meet on the debt ceiling with only 10 days until U.S. risks default

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WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 17: U.S. President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) attend the Friends of Ireland Luncheon at the U.S. Capitol on Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. Biden joined Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and other members of Congress for the traditional St. Patrick’s Day Friends of Ireland Luncheon. (D-MA). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON — White House negotiators and representatives of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy resumed debt ceiling talks Monday morning, as President Joe Biden prepared to meet with McCarthy face to face with only 10 days to go until the U.S. risks default.

The talks came after a dramatic weekend during which negotiations broke down Friday over an apparent impasse on government spending levels, but resumed several hours later.

Biden and McCarthy spoke by phone Sunday evening, talks they described as “productive,” and which could set the stage for anticipated progress towards a deal in the first part of this week. Biden and McCarthy are set to meet at 5:30 p.m. ET in the Oval Office on Monday.

The White House team, comprised of presidential counselor Steve Ricchetti, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and legislative affairs director Louisa Terrell, declined to speak with reporters as they walked into the Capitol for talks with McCarthy’s side Monday.

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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reaffirmed on Sunday that June 1 is the government’s “hard deadline” to raise the debt limit or face a likely first ever national debt default.

“We expect to be unable to pay all of our bills in early June, and possibly as soon as June 1,” Yellen told NBC’s Meet the Press.

“My assessment is that the odds of reaching June 15, while being able to pay all of our bills, is quite low,” she said, with the caveat that there would always be uncertainty about exact revenue and payments.

Both Biden and McCarthy have acknowledged that one of the main sticking points in the talks remains the question of spending caps, a key GOP demand but a red line so far for the White House. Raising the debt limit would not authorize new spending, but Republicans have push to cut government outlays as part of a deal to hike the borrowing limit.

As Biden presses for a debt limit hike that would push the next deadline past the 2024 presidential election, Republicans are pushing to roll next year’s government spending back to its 2022 levels.

“It is very frustrating if they want to come into the room and think we’re going to spend more money next year than we did this year. That’s not right, and that’s not going to happen,” McCarthy said Friday evening.

Biden said he is willing to cut spending, but not while also preserving Republican tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthiest Americans.

The president has also faulted Republicans for demanding that huge portions of federal spending be exempted from the proposed budget cuts, including defense spending and potentially veterans health benefits. Once these categories are exempted, cuts to other programs would need to be deeper in order to meet the baseline number.

“It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely, solely, on their partisan terms,” Biden said at a press conference in Japan on Sunday.

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