Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy meet

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) (L) looks on as US President Joe Biden speaks during a debt ceiling meeting in the Oval Office of the White House May 22, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he had a “productive” and “professional” meeting with President Joe Biden on raising the debt ceiling, but the two failed to reach an agreement Monday.

“I think the tone tonight was better than any other night we’ve had conversations,” McCarthy said after the hour-long meeting outside the West Wing.

The meeting was also helpful for the negotiation teams working out the complex deal. “It gave us a little more detail on the negotiating team that we need to come up with a package that can pass Congress,” said Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, North Carolina, who is negotiating on McCarthy’s behalf.

“Hearing the speaker and the President express their views directly and without agitation was productive and a meaningful discussion, and helped us develop a construct that can protect everyone’s interests,” McHenry said.

McCarthy said both teams would “get back together and work through the night on a compromise.” “The president and I know the deadline, so I think we’re going to talk every day … until we get this done.”

Ahead of the meeting, Biden stressed that both men needed a deal that we can sell “to both sides” of a tightly divided, bipartisan Congress. “We still have some disagreements, but I think we might be getting where we need to be,” Biden said at the start of a highly anticipated session.

McCarthy shared Biden’s cautious optimism. “I think at the end of the day we can find common ground, strengthen our economy, pay off that debt, but more importantly, get this government moving again to curb inflation, make us less dependent on China and ours Provide funds.” System work.”

U.S. President Joe Biden hosts debt limit talks with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in the Oval Office at the White House on May 22, 2023 in Washington, USA.

Leah Millis | Reuters

Shortly before the meeting, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated that June 1st is the earliest the US could face serious risk of default. Yellen’s recent letter to congressional leaders was similar to letters she had sent out throughout the spring. But on Monday there were two subtle differences.

The first was that Yellen described a possible default in early June as “very likely”, while last week it was only “likely”. In Monday’s letter, she also notably excluded a line from last week that predicted Treasury Department emergency measures to cover the government debt could extend the payment deadline into June.

“The actual date that the Treasury Department exhausts the extraordinary measures could be a few days or weeks after these estimates,” Yellen wrote in her letter to congressional leaders a week ago. But by Monday, her apparent optimism was gone.

McCarthy said Monday he believes June 1 is a stone cold deadline. He also acknowledged that the reality of the legislative process had begun to weigh on his calculations.

“I think we can get a deal tonight, we can get a deal tomorrow, but you have to get something done this week to be able to go through it.” [in the House] and submit it to the Senate,” he said.

The House of Representatives is currently scheduled to leave on Memorial Day weekend, but McCarthy said he will let the chamber sit for as long as necessary to pass a bill. “We stay and do our job,” he said.

McCarthy spoke Monday after three hours of negotiations between the White House and Republican envoys. One of the GOP negotiators, Rep. Patrick McHenry, RN.C., later said he was “concerned about getting a deal that can pass the House and Senate and be signed by the President.”

US House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addresses the media as he exits a meeting with US President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling at the White House May 22, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

“It’s a complicated piece of math,” McHenry told CNN. “We are at a very delicate point here and the goal is to create something that can be enshrined in law,” he added.

McHenry was joined at the talks by Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. The White House team consists of Presidential Advisor Steve Ricchetti, Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young, and Director of Legislative Affairs Louisa Terrell.

Yellen has repeatedly warned Congress and the public that the United States faces a tough deadline for raising the debt ceiling before early June.

“We anticipate not being able to pay all of our bills by early June and possibly as early as June 1,” Yellen told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

“In my estimation, the odds of hitting June 15 and being able to pay all our bills at the same time are pretty slim,” she said, with the caveat that there would always be uncertainty as to the exact earnings and payments.

Both Biden and McCarthy have acknowledged that one of the main sticking points in the talks remains the issue of spending caps, a key Republican demand but a red line for the White House so far. Raising the debt limit would not allow new spending, but Republicans are insisting on sweeping government spending cuts as part of an agreement to raise the credit limit.

“The underlying problem here is that ever since they won the majority, the Democrats have been addicted to spending. And that will stop. We’re going to spend less than last year,” McCarthy told reporters Monday morning at the Capitol.

Biden hopes to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling that would push the next deadline past the 2024 presidential election. But Republicans in the House, who have only endorsed a year-long hike so far, say if Biden wants more time, he must agree to more cuts.

The Biden-McCarthy meeting follows a dramatic weekend when talks stalled on Friday over a stalemate on government spending levels, but resumed a few hours later.

The two leaders then had a phone call on Sunday night, which they described as “productive.”

Over the weekend, the president accused Republicans of calling for large parts of discretionary federal spending to be exempted from proposed budget cuts, including defense and possibly veterans’ health care.

If those categories were actually exempted, Biden explained that cuts in all other discretionary spending would have to be much deeper to make up the difference.

Blanket cuts like these “make no sense at all,” Biden said Sunday in Japan, where he was attending the Group of Seven summit. “It’s time Republicans accepted that there is no bipartisan deal that can be struck solely on their partisan terms.”

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