On February 4, 2023, President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy held their first meeting since McCarthy became Speaker to discuss the debt ceiling. The two men discussed the debt limit, with McCarthy suggesting that spending cuts should be part of the deal to raise the debt ceiling, while Biden argued that no preconditions should be attached to raising the debt limit. The meeting was seen as a positive step forward, but no agreement was reached.
The debt ceiling has been raised 78 times since 1960, and the U.S. Treasury Department has been using extraordinary measures to ensure the country pays its bills and avoids a default. However, those measures could be exhausted as early as June.
The Biden administration released a memorandum calling on Republicans to commit to the “bedrock principle” that the United States not default. Democrats have been pressing Republicans to provide more specifics of what they plan to cut, while warning against entitlement-eligibility changes some GOP lawmakers had sought to tie to a debt-limit deal.
Biden is a deal-maker and has a reputation as a Senator of being able to bring people together and find common ground. He has previously negotiated the bipartisan infrastructure deal with former U.S. Senator Rob Portman, as well as the 1994 crime bill and the Violence Against Women Act.
In the lead up to his expected re-election campaign, Biden has taken a hard line against the Republicans, and Democrats have been messaging around a defense of democracy. Biden has argued that the GOP’s embrace of election denialism is tantamount to “semi-fascism” and that “extreme MAGA Republicans” are a threat to democracy itself.
Ultimately, the two men did not reach an agreement in the meeting, but McCarthy said that the discussion was productive and that he looks forward to speaking with Biden again. Biden has said that he welcomes a separate discussion with congressional leaders about how to reduce the deficit and control the national debt while continuing to grow the economy. He is hopeful that an agreement can be reached before the deadline, and is confident that a bipartisan solution can be found.
0. “White House Makes Debt Ceiling, Budget Demands Ahead of McCarthy Meeting” GovExec.com, 31 Jan. 2023, https://www.govexec.com/management/2023/01/white-house-makes-debt-ceiling-budget-demands-ahead-mccarthy-meeting/382396/
1. “House Dems eye discharge petition as escape hatch on debt ceiling” The Hill, 1 Feb. 2023, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/3838435-house-dems-eye-discharge-petition-as-escape-hatch-on-debt-ceiling
2. “After meeting with Biden, McCarthy says he won't agree to clean debt ceiling increase” Connecticut Public, 1 Feb. 2023, https://www.ctpublic.org/2023-02-01/after-meeting-with-biden-mccarthy-says-he-wont-agree-to-clean-debt-ceiling-increase
3. “Social Security, Medicare Cuts Sidelined in Debt-Ceiling Talks” The Wall Street Journal, 2 Feb. 2023, https://www.wsj.com/articles/debt-ceiling-talks-sideline-social-security-medicare-11675344634
4. “Biden, McCarthy meeting: Darcy cartoon” cleveland.com, 2 Feb. 2023, https://www.cleveland.com/darcy/2023/02/biden-mccarthy-meeting-darcy-cartoon.html
5. “Why Biden, Who Loves Deals, Is Not Offering One to McCarthy” TIME, 1 Feb. 2023, https://time.com/6252092/biden-loves-deals-not-mccarthy/
6. “Colbert Cringes at Biden's Weirdly Sexual Debt Ceiling Talk: ‘Nobody Wants to See an” TheWrap, 2 Feb. 2023, https://www.thewrap.com/colbert-monologue-biden-debt-ceiling-republicans-video
7. “The Dems who want to call GOP's debt ceiling bluff” Axios, 5 Feb. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/02/05/democrats-debt-ceiling-gop