In a meeting on Tuesday with President Joe Biden, Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the other three congressional leaders showed no signs of progress toward resolving the U.S. debt ceiling crisis.
With less than three weeks remaining before the U.S. could default on $3.1 trillion in debt, McCarthy stated there was “no new movement” in the talks, the Daily Mail reported.
Among those present at this pivotal discussion were Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08).
According to McCarthy, all leaders maintained their original positions during the meeting. Jeffries, however, held a slightly more optimistic viewpoint, indicating that President Biden encouraged further discussions on a path forward around the budget and appropriations process.
Despite this, McCarthy pressed the President on potential budget cuts and areas of agreement, yet received no specific proposals. The White House previously called for a “clean” debt ceiling bill that doesn't intertwine with discussions about budget cuts.
McCarthy revealed that staff from his office and the White House would reconvene before the leaders' next meeting on Friday to try to identify a feasible path forward.
McCarthy put forth a bill at the end of last month, proposing to increase the debt limit by $1.5 trillion in exchange for $4.5 trillion in spending cuts over time. The Senate, however, has yet to pick up the bill, which is unlikely to pass in it's current form. "I don't want to play politics with this; I think it's too important," McCarthy added.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, "The United States is not going to default, it never has, and it never will. However, elections have consequences, and we now have a divided government. So there must be an agreement. And the sooner the President and the Speaker can reach an agreement, the sooner we can solve the problem."
Schumer criticized McCarthy for not categorically ruling out default, regardless of the circumstances. "We explicitly asked Speaker McCarthy if he would take default off the table. He refused," Schumer stated, CNBC reported.
Despite the leaders' “legitimate differences,” Schumer expressed hope that there might be areas of agreement. He confirmed that the use of the 14th Amendment was not brought up during discussions.
However, after the meeting, the president said he has been considering using the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling without the help of Congress unilaterally, CNN reported. He implied that the litigation process may take too long to make a difference.
During the meeting, the tone was reportedly “measured, low-key,” with the exception of occasional assertive remarks from the Speaker. However, McCarthy denied getting angry and suggested that Schumer was the source of any tension.
Prior to the meeting, McCarthy voiced his opposition to extending the debt limit to the end of the fiscal year in September, instead urging for a resolution now. "He's got to stop ignoring problems. And why continue to kick the can down the road? Let's solve it now," McCarthy stated.
McCarthy believes that a debt deal needs to be concluded by next week to allow for voting by early June. This meeting marked the first time Biden and McCarthy have gone toe-to-toe on the debt ceiling in over three months.
"I had a much higher expectation 97 days ago. Then he told me one thing and did another," McCarthy stated.
Both sides remain entrenched in their opposing demands over the nation's borrowing limit, even as the Treasury Department warns of a looming crisis.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre asserted that the president does not support a short-term extension of the debt ceiling, adding that it is Congress' responsibility to prevent a default. The deadline for the fiscal year 2024 budget is in September.