Ahead of meeting with Biden, McCarthy says debt, spending deal needed 'this week'
(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will meet late Monday afternoon in the Oval Office to directly negotiate with just 10 days to reach a debt ceiling and spending deal — or risk an unprecedented default.
Ahead of their one-on-one session, White House negotiators arrived back on Capitol Hill early Monday and met for nearly three hours with Republican negotiators.
Afterward, McCarthy told reporters early Monday afternoon that Biden would need a deal by “this week” in order for it to pass the House and Senate before the June 1 “X-date” when Treasury Secretary Jane Yellen has said the U.S. could default.
Yellen warned Sunday that June 1 is a “hard deadline” for raising the debt limit, and the possibility of making it to mid-June without default is “quite low.”
Asked if he thought there could be a deal as soon as Monday night, McCarthy said, “I thought it was better to have a deal sooner. I think we can. We can get a deal tonight. We can get a deal tomorrow, but you’ve got to get something done this week to be able to pass it and move it to the Senate.”
“We’re going to need a couple of days to write it and to make sure that everyone’s able to read it,” he said, referring to House members.
He pointed to a concession he made to become speaker, going back to a previous rule that requires House members get 72 hours to review legislation before voting on it.
The short timeline makes it “more difficult,” he said, but added, “I think this will make it all happen.”
Another looming concern as negotiations continue is whether McCarthy, if a deal is reached, will have the votes to pass it in the House.
When asked if he can count on far-right House Republicans to vote for a debt ceiling deal or if he’ll need to get support from Democrats, McCarthy demurred.
“I think anytime you come to an agreement that you negotiate with the president, Democrats and Republicans are both going to vote for it,” he said.
The House Freedom Caucus, which boasts dozens of Republican hardliners, called for talks with the Biden administration to stop and instead for the focus to be on getting the Limit, Save, Grow Act through the Senate — a bill that would deeply cut spending in exchange a one-year debt limit increase deemed a nonstarter by Democrats.
Their opposition means McCarthy would possibly need a substantial number of Democratic votes to pass a debt limit deal. Several progressives have warned of pushback if Biden concedes too much ground to Republicans, and are calling for him to use the 14th Amendment to act unilaterally on the issue.
Earlier Monday, McCarthy continued to criticize Democrats’ spending as he entered the Capitol, declining to say if there had been any movement with the White House.
“The underlying issue here is the Democrats since they took the majority have been addicted to spending and that’s going to stop, we’re going to spend less than we spent last year,” McCarthy said.
And while McCarthy said he’s looking forward to his meeting with the president at the White House at 5:30 p.m., he also took the opportunity to slam Biden.
“Managing a crisis in the last deadline is the worst way to handle this. That’s why Republicans took action,” he said.
Biden and McCarthy spoke on Sunday after negotiations stalled over the weekend, primarily over the issue of spending and the length of budget caps.
Biden said the call “went well” and McCarthy labelled it a “productive” conversation but emphasized there was “no agreement.”
ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott reported Republicans rejected an offer from the White House that offered some cuts to military and domestic spending, including funds related to housing, education and scientific research.
Biden’s call for tax increases to also be included in a deal to raise the debt ceiling has also received GOP pushback. Rep. Jodey Arrington, chairman of the House Budget Committee, told ABC’s “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz on Sunday tax increases were “not on the table for discussion.”
McCarthy had previously said a deal would be needed in principle by this past weekend to clear a bill and send it to Biden’s desk by June 1.
When asked by ABC’s Elizabeth Schulze on Sunday when his drop-dead date to begin moving legislation on the floor would be, McCarthy declined to get into specifics but said he still believes Congress will ultimately be able to move legislation forward.
-ABC News’ Alexandra Hutzler contributed to this report.
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