House Speaker Kevin McCarthy accused President Biden of being “completely missing in action” on the debt limit negotiations, and urged Biden on Tuesday to “drop the partisanship, roll up our sleeves, and find common ground on this urgent challenge.”
McCarthy, R-Calif., met with Biden at the White House on Feb. 1 for a “very good discussion” on how best to handle raising the debt ceiling, and said he saw an “opportunity here to come to an agreement” that would satisfy both sides of the aisle.
But on Tuesday, McCarthy wrote a letter to the president reminding him of the meeting and claiming that he has dropped the ball on negotiations.
“Nearly two months ago, you and I sat down to discuss a path forward on the debt limit,” McCarthy wrote. “Since that time, however, you and your team have been completely missing in action on any meaningful follow-up to this rapidly approaching deadline.”
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“[W]ith each passing day, I am incredibly concerned you are putting an already fragile economy in jeopardy by insisting upon your extreme position of refusing to negotiate any meaningful changes to out-of-control government spending alongside an increase of the debt limit,” McCarthy wrote.
McCarthy said Biden’s position, “if maintained,” could “prevent America from meeting its obligations and hold dire ramifications for the entire nation.”
“I have no interest in brinksmanship — only in doing what is best for the American people,” McCarthy wrote. “We cannot solve the nation’s fiscal problems overnight, and House Republicans are not demanding we do so. But we cannot continue to kick the can down the road and ignore America’s ballooning national debt, all while you continue to spend trillions more, including through unaccountable executive fiat.”
McCarthy said House Republicans are “united” in their view that the best way to reduce the national debt is to “limit spending, save taxpayer money and grow the economy.”
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McCarthy said he is prepared to sit down with the president to discuss “a variety fo means to do so that would achieve trillions of dollars in savings and economy growth — some of which you even agreed to during the Biden Debt Limit talks of 2011.”
McCarthy outlined those avenues, including reduction of excessive non-defense government spending to “pre-inflationary levels” and limiting out-year growth; reclaiming unspent COVID funds; strengthening work requirements for those without dependents who can work; and enacting policies to grow the economy and keep Americans safe. McCarthy said those policies would include measures to lower energy costs, make America energy independent, and secure the border “from the flow of deadly fentanyl that is killing 300 Americans per day.”
“Taken together, such policies would help address the number one issue facing Americans today: stubbornly high inflation brought on by reckless government spending,” he said.
“Mr. President, simply put: you are on the clock,” McCarthy continued. “It’s time to drop the partisanship, roll up our sleeves, and find common ground on this urgent challenge.”
He requested that the president have White House staff contact the speaker’s office by the end of the week to set a date for their next meeting.
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The debt ceiling, which sits at $31.381 trillion and was reached nearly two weeks ago, is the legal limit on the total amount of debt that the federal government can borrow to fund everything from Social Security and Medicare benefits to military salaries and tax refunds. McCarthy said last month that the debt is the “greatest threat” America faces.
The White House has repeatedly claimed that House Republicans, under McCarthy’s leadership, would demand cuts for social programs like Social Security and Medicare. But the speaker has repeatedly denied those claims.
Congress last voted to raise the debt ceiling in December 2021. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen projected that the government can pay its bills through early June without needing an increase in the government’s borrowing limit.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre indicated in her reply to the McCarthy letter that Biden is still not interested in negotiations.
“It’s time for Republicans to stop playing games, pass a clean debt ceiling bill, and quit threatening our economic recovery,” she said. She also said Biden would welcome a “separate” discussion on the nation’s fiscal future, and accused Republicans of threatening a “list of devastating cuts to law enforcement and border security and proposals to take health care away from Americans and raise health care and child care costs.”