House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he and President Joe Biden had a ‘very good discussion’ on how best to handle raising the debt ceiling, noting that he sees an ‘opportunity here to come to an agreement’ that will satisfy both sides of the aisle.
McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke to reporters outside the White House on Wednesday evening after his first meeting with Biden since taking the speaker’s gavel. The meeting lasted for more than an hour.
‘The president and I had a good first meeting,’ McCarthy said. ‘I shared my perspective with him, he shared his, and we agreed to continue the conversation.’
‘We want to make sure we do this in a responsible, reasonable way, and we’ll be talking again,’ he continued, adding that he and Biden ‘have different perspectives on this, but I thought it was a good meeting. We promised we would continue the conversation.’
‘We’ll see if we can get there,’ he said. ‘I think, at the end of the day, we can find common ground.’
‘I think there is an opportunity here to come to an agreement on both sides,’ McCarthy said, adding that is ‘what the American people want.’
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 and more.
McCarthy and Republicans have said that now that the ceiling has been reached, it is a good time to discuss a more fiscally responsible plan that stops the rapid expansion of the national debt.
The White House has claimed that House Republicans, under McCarthy’s leadership, would demand cuts for social programs like Social Security and Medicare. But the speaker denied those claims.
‘Let me be clear about that — and I’ve been clear many times — no, we are not talking about that,’ McCarthy said. ‘And to really be able to do this right, I’m not going to negotiate this in the press.’
He added, ‘I respect the conversation we had together, and we will continue that.’
Reflecting further on the meeting, McCarthy said that after he and Biden both laid out their ‘vision,’ he sees areas where they ‘can find common ground.’
‘I think the American public would appreciate that,’ McCarthy said.
McCarthy said the U.S. ‘cannot sustain’ the current path it is on and that ‘we’ve got to change the direction to put ourselves on a path to balance.’
‘How we get there will be in our discussions,’ McCarthy said, adding that if an agreement is reached, he believes there could be a funding agreement for the next two years.
When asked where he would be concerned about members in his caucus’ reaction if he and Biden are to come to an agreement, McCarthy said, ‘No.’
‘Look, the Republicans are very united. I think, had we not been elected to the majority, we wouldn’t be having this discussion — the American people would not have an advocate here to curb the waste in the spending that’s happening,’ McCarthy said. ‘So, I think this is a positive. This is exactly how government in America is designed. You have to find compromise.’
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.