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Biden to meet congressional leaders on debt ceiling as default looms


WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden and congressional leaders — including the two top Republicans — will meet in the Oval Office on Tuesday to open negotiations to avert a looming default crisis, though neither side expects that. the summit to make a lot of progress.

With the Treasury Department saying the government will run out of money as soon as June 1 unless Congress increases its borrowing limit, Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have little time valuable and virtually no pre-existing relationship.

But even sitting down together is seen as a big step forward, as the White House has so far refused to negotiate the debt ceiling itself and both sides agree a resolution is essential to avert calamity. unprecedented economic failure.

“The president has been very clear that he wants to communicate to leaders the urgency of resolving the debt ceiling and preventing default,” a White House aide said, speaking under cover of anonymity.

Republicans want to tie spending cuts to an increase in the debt ceiling, leaving a stalemate that the two sides have been unable to overcome.

The aide said Biden was still unwilling to negotiate on the debt ceiling himself, but he was willing to separately discuss the spending cuts Republicans are seeking as part of the budget process.

“We have been clear that he wants to have this budget conversation and has offered both a way to reduce the deficit in a responsible way with revenue increases and spending cuts. We are therefore open to spending cuts. We made that clear,” the aide said.

Biden isn’t interested in trying to use the 14th Amendment in a new way to circumvent the debt ceiling, as some liberal legal scholars have suggested, aide says, echoing Biden’s insistence that it is up to Congress alone to increase the borrowing limit.

“He will repeat that it is the constitutional obligation of Congress and that they must do it. That position has not changed, and he will make it clear,” the aide said.

Biden also won’t enter the meeting with a proposal that lawmakers pass a short-term increase in the debt ceiling to head off a crisis while the two sides continue talks. (As recently as last week, the White House was considering whether to support a short-term extension.)

“It’s not something that’s going to be proposed by the president at the meeting,” the aide said.

Republicans, as they did under the Obama administration in 2011 and 2013, are trying to use the threat of default as leverage to force the Democratic-controlled Senate and the president to acquiesce to spending cuts. Exactly what they expect to be able to cut is unclear, and will likely only be revealed through negotiations.

Last month, the Republican-controlled House passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling, which amounted to a wish list of spending cuts and other policies, but GOP lawmakers have acknowledged in private sector that the bill was more about strengthening their bargaining position than creating legislation. which could become law.

McCarthy says Republicans will demand something in exchange for their approval to raise the debt ceiling.

“We’re not going to pass a debt ceiling that just increases it without doing something about our debt,” McCarthy told reporters last week during an official trip to Israel.

McCarthy’s team has told conservative influencers they believe Biden will give in and eventually make concessions under the GOP bill, a source familiar with the talks said.

If things go wrong, the options McCarthy ruled out — like a bipartisan discharge petition — could come back on the table, the source said.

“It’s not going to be pretty at the end of the day,” the source said, adding that McCarthy seemed to have few good options and anything could happen.

Biden will need the support of not just McCarthy’s House Republicans, but also at least some Senate Republicans and potentially Kentucky Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to secure the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

McConnell, who had until recently kept his distance from the issue, said last week that Biden had been too slow to negotiate.

“President Biden has let our nation drift into economic disaster,” McConnell said in a speech to the Senate. “His own administration says our country is only weeks away from a debt crisis, but there has been a complete absence of presidential leadership. President Biden has simply been MIA.

“Senate Democrats and Leader Schumer can give all the angry speeches they want, but they don’t have a bill,” McConnell added, referring to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN. .Y. “The only solution is presidential leadership. … Anything President Biden and President McCarthy can agree on will pass easily through the Senate.”

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found Americans were split on who they would blame if the government didn’t repay its debt, with independent voters slightly more likely to blame congressional Republicans than Biden.

The White House and Democratic super PACs have lobbied moderate Republicans in battleground districts in hopes of rolling them back.

Biden will travel to New York’s Hudson Valley on Wednesday – where Republican Representative Mike Lawler ousted Democrat Sean Patrick Maloney last year – to demand that Congress raise the debt ceiling without conditions and to reverse the GOP spending cut bill, which the White House says would cut services to veterans, teachers and others.

The fact that the meeting goes ahead at all works in Biden’s favor, a former Republican House member said. In a time of raw partisanship, he appears collegial in calling the four leaders of both parties into the Oval Office to settle differences, said Joe Walsh, who represented an Illinois district in the House for 12 years.

Biden’s message is ultimately the most reasonable, amounting to, “‘Come on, let’s pay our bills before we talk about cutting spending,'” Walsh said. “It’s a notion that will resonate with the American people. The Biden team thinks they are in better shape politically, and having this meeting makes Biden look better.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.