Biden to ask McCarthy for commitment to avoid default at Wednesday meeting

Getty Images, Greg Nash

President Biden at a Wednesday meeting plans to ask Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) if he will commit to avoiding a default and if he will release a budget proposal outlining House GOP spending plans, according to a White House memo.

The memo, which was circulated ahead of Biden’s meeting with McCarthy, detailed how the president and his team plan to press the Speaker on two key points as they seek a commitment to raise the debt ceiling without tying it to spending cuts.

“At Wednesday’s meeting, President Biden will pose two questions to Speaker McCarthy,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote in the memo.

The first question is whether McCarthy will “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations,” citing comments from other congressional leaders such as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has said the government will not default.

“President Biden will ask Speaker McCarthy to publicly assure the American people and the rest of the world that the United States will, as always, honor all of its financial obligations,” the two officials wrote.

The second question is when McCarthy and House Republicans will release their budget. 

Deese and Young said Biden will release a White House budget proposal on March 9, and they called it “essential” for McCarthy to do the same “so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit,” specifically whether it would include cuts to Social Security and Medicare or other government programs.

“Any serious conversation about economic and fiscal policy needs to start with a clear understanding of the participants’ goals and proposals,” Deese and Young wrote in the memo. “Speaker McCarthy and his Caucus need to transparently lay out to the American people their fiscal and economic proposals in the normal budget process.”

The memo includes comments from McConnell, former President Trump and former President Reagan pushing back over the decades on the idea of a government default. McConnell said as recently as this month that he did not believe the government would default on its debt.

It also includes data showing how House GOP proposals like extending Trump-era tax cuts or repealing parts of the Inflation Reduction Act would add to the national deficit, despite McCarthy and other lawmakers arguing they want to use debt ceiling negotiations to lower the deficit.

McCarthy said in a tweet later Tuesday that he had received the memo.

“I’m not interested in political games,” he said. “I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”

Biden and McCarthy’s meeting on Wednesday will be their first one-on-one meeting since McCarthy became Speaker.

Congress must act to raise the debt limit in the coming months, or the U.S. will default. The debt limit allows the government to pay money it has already approved, not cover any new spending. 

White House officials and economists have warned that failing to raise the debt limit could result in economic catastrophe, including job losses, a stock market decline and the loss of government services for veterans, seniors and other Americans.

The president and his team have insisted the debt ceiling should be raised without conditions, pointing to past precedent. Some Republicans, however, have signaled they plan to use the upcoming negotiations as leverage to try and secure cuts to government spending they consider wasteful.

–Updated at 11:31 a.m.

Tags Biden biden administration Biden McCarthy meeting Brian Deese debt ceiling default Kevin McCarthy Shalanda Young Speaker White House

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