Debt ceiling no nearer as McCarthy and Biden pledge to proceed talks
WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he and President Joe Biden plan to meet again soon to continue talks on how and when to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, a day after it was announced first face-to-face meeting held in the White House since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives.
“We left it that he will call me in a few days to set up the next meeting,” the California Republican told reporters in the Capitol.
McCarthy said he and Biden did not discuss details of their next meeting, such as whether White House officials or members of McCarthy’s leadership team would attend.
If Congress doesn’t pass legislation raising or suspending the country’s legal debt limit by early June, it could wreak economic havoc around the world.
Both Biden and McCarthy say passing a debt cap bill is absolutely necessary. But they are very divided on how to do it.
“I think you need to raise the debt ceiling, but you don’t raise the debt ceiling without changing your behavior. So it has to be both,” McCarthy said.
However, Biden and the White House have so far refused to “negotiate” an increase in the debt ceiling. Instead, Biden has urged Congress to pass what he calls “clean” legislation, meaning one without legal requirements.
That will never happen, the Speaker of the Republican House of Representatives said on Thursday.
“We’re not going to adopt a clean debt ceiling here without some form of spending reform. So there will never be a clean debt ceiling,” McCarthy said. “At the end of the day we will get spending reforms.”
Despite their differences, McCarthy said he respects Biden and stressed that both men see a way forward and the potential for common ground.
“Yesterday was a very nice conversation for more than an hour,” he said. “It didn’t mean that we agreed, but we staked out different positions.”
“By the end of the conversation between the two of us, we were like, ‘You know what? It’s worth continuing.’ So we’re going to continue.”
Biden said much the same thing about McCarthy in his remarks at Thursday’s annual bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast.
“Let’s start treating each other with respect,” Biden said. “This is Kevin [McCarthy] and I will do that.”
“We had a good meeting yesterday,” Biden continued. “That doesn’t mean we agree, and [not] fight like hell But let’s treat each other with respect.”
The amicable mood between Biden and McCarthy on Thursday stood in stark contrast to the bitter debate that unfolded on the House floor, just before Republicans voted to remove Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee . The move followed up on some of her previous statements, many said to be anti-Semitic, including tweets she posted while a member of Congress in 2019 that repeated anti-Semitic tropes.
More than a dozen of Omar’s Democrats delivered impassioned speeches for her on Thursday, including several members of the Jewish House.
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan fought back tears as she railed against Republicans for targeting Omar. “The GOP is doing what it does best – weaponizing hatred against a black beautiful Muslim woman,” Tlaib said before turning to Omar. “I’m so sorry sis that our country is failing you today.”
For her part, Omar was defiant. “I didn’t come to Congress to be silent, I came to Congress to be their voice,” Omar said. “And my leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for a term — my voice is growing louder and stronger.”