McCarthy gains leverage in debt talks as Biden’s poll numbers sink

Speaker Kevin McCarthy is hitting the right notes at the most important time in his early Speakership, putting President Biden on his heels.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R–Bakersfield) is embracing legislative wind at his back as the nation reaches its debt limit.

McCarthy has simultaneously managed to mollify his greatest critics, who delayed his election in January, and place intense pressure on President Joe Biden to compromise on spending cuts to increase the nation’s debt ceiling.


Driving the news: Pressure is growing on President Biden to bend in debt ceiling talks with Republicans, though the White House and Democrats are showing no signs of letting up from his no-negotiation stance.

  • The White House has staked a position that it will only accept a so-called “clean” debt ceiling increase, meaning it would not be tied to any spending cuts.
  • Despite the White House posture, Biden faces abysmal approval ratings as he heads into the Tuesday summit with McCarthy and other congressional leaders, who have until June 1 to reach a deal that would avoid the nation’s first default.
  • Republicans are entering the debt ceiling talks more unified than ever, with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) signing on to a letter with 42 other Senate Republicans backing McCarthy’s position that it is time for the White House to agree to spending cuts as part of a deal.
  • Separately, Biden continues to face lingering questions about the economy as recession worries swell and inflation remains at an all time high.

What they’re saying: Ahead of the Tuesday confab, the two sides – the White House and House Republicans – are hewing close to their overarching negotiating positions.

  • “Biden needs to change his tune. The American people aren’t believing his lies, they want to see real action,” said Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee.
  • “The president’s going to be as clear as he’s been these last several months … which is, they need to do their job. They need to get this done on the behalf of the American people and do their jobs,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.
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