Biden, McCarthy dig in on debt ceiling, setting stage for showdown

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The White House balked on Tuesday at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s calls for debt ceiling negotiations, signaling a high-stakes showdown as a potential federal debt default looms.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said President Biden remains firm in his demand that Congress raise the nation’s borrowing limit “without conditions,” despite Mr. McCarthy’s calls for Democrats to come to the negotiating table.

“This is just another attempt by congressional Republicans to force unpopular cuts on programs critical to seniors, the middle class and working families,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “Congress needs to act and do so swiftly. There is no excuse for political brinkmanship when American jobs and economic safety is on the line.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, also slammed House Republicans over the strategy. 

“America pays its debts. Period. There should be no political brinkmanship with the debt limit,” Mr. Schumer said. “It’s reckless for Speaker McCarthy and ‘MAGA’ Republicans to try and use the full faith and credit of the United States as a political bargaining chip. A default would be catastrophic for America’s working families and lead to higher costs.”

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned last week that the Treasury Department would begin implementing “extraordinary measures” once the U.S. maxes out its $31.4 trillion debt limit on Thursday. Those measures could be exhausted as early as June, Ms. Yellen said, leaving the federal government unable to pay its bills.

SEE ALSO: Federal government hits debt limit, clock starts ticking on potential default

“It is therefore critical that Congress act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit,” Ms. Yellen wrote in a letter to lawmakers. “Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the U.S. economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability.”

Mr. McCarthy, California Republican, said the House GOP will not increase the debt limit unless the Democrat-led Senate and White House agree to cuts in the face of an unwieldy national debt.

“I don’t see why you would continue the past behavior,” Mr. McCarthy said Tuesday. “If you had a child, and you gave them a credit card, and they kept raising it, and they hit the limit, so you just raised it again. Would you just keep doing that? Or would you change the behavior?”

“What I’d like to do is I’d like to sit down with all the leaders, especially with the president, and start having discussions,” he said. “I think it’s a sign of arrogance if he would say he wouldn’t even discuss it.”

Mr. McCarthy himself has been forced to the negotiating table with hardline conservatives in the conference who have pushed for a return to 2022 spending levels, which would entail cuts to the military and various other sectors of the federal budget.

But Ms. Jean-Pierre warned that tying the budget talks to the debt ceiling would be a non-starter.

SEE ALSO: Kevin McCarthy says debt limit should be treated ‘like our own household’

“We are not going to be negotiating over the debt ceiling,” she said.

“There should be no hostage-taking here,” she said. “There should be no attempt to exploit the debt ceiling or to leverage it.”

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