McCarthy edges debt limit negotiations his way: directly with Biden

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has managed to force out Congressional Democrats from his negotiations with President Biden.

Negotiations over raising America’s debt limit have pared down, with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) opting to show the remainder of the Congressional leadership the door.

The move to limit negotiations to Biden and McCarthy and their surrogates comes after a weekend’s worth of work among a wider array of staff that was unproductive.


Driving the news: McCarthy and other top congressional leaders met with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris at the White House amid a debt limit standoff between the two parties.

  • McCarthy and his Senate GOP counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had complained about having too many negotiators in the room, stressing that only the speaker and president would be able to cut a deal in the end.
  • Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young will negotiate on Biden’s behalf, while Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., and McCarthy aides will represent the speaker.
  • Republicans and Democrats are still far apart on the issues, after weeks of calls from the GOP to pair spending cuts with a debt limit increase and from Democrats to pass a “clean” debt limit bill without negotiating over the statutory borrowing limit.

The big picture: McCarthy said negotiators have yet to agree to the duration of a debt limit increase, but suggested that savings lower than the $4.8 trillion in the House-passed bill wouldn’t convince Republicans to raise the debt limit by more than the $1.5 trillion increase in their bill.

  • Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen reiterated this week that the government could hit the “X-date” when it no longer has enough funds to pay all its bills on time as soon as June 1.

Lawmakers are still largely dismissing the option of a short-term patch that could give extra breathing room for talks. Instead, leaders in the Senate and House have indicated they could scrap plans to take weeklong recesses for Memorial Day, or at least cut their breaks short.

  • Leaving the meeting, leaders largely declined to get into specifics on what would emerge as part of an agreement. But McCarthy again pointed to measures in a House-passed GOP debt limit bill including those to limit future discretionary spending and expand work requirements for anti-poverty programs.
  • One area that appears to be off the table is any tax increases, which Republicans have rejected in the talks.
  • Biden emphasized he’s optimistic there’s a path to a deal if both sides negotiate in good faith and recognize they won’t get everything they want, according to the White House’s summary of the meeting. Biden also directed staff to continue meeting daily.

What they’re saying: “Nothing has been resolved in this negotiation. So the only thing that has changed is we finally have a format that has proven to work years in the past,” McCarthy said after Tuesday’s confab.

  • “It’s disappointing that in our discussions the congressional Republicans have not been willing to discuss raising revenues, but the policy differences between the parties should not stop Congress from avoiding default,” Biden said. “I made clear again in today’s meeting that default is not an option.”
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