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President Biden will not meet with congressional leaders on Friday to discuss the debt ceiling as planned, according to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s office.
Biden was scheduled to meet with McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer at the White House to continue talks on raising the nation’s debt ceiling, which quickly ends in early June. Tuesday’s meeting ended without any decision.
McCarthy’s office said Friday that he, Biden and other leaders agreed that their staff should continue to meet.
A source familiar with the meetings told NPR that Biden and congressional leaders postponed their meeting because they didn’t want to disrupt progress.
“It’s a positive development. The meetings are progressing. Staff are meeting regularly and it’s not the right time to bring it back to the principals,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe individual meetings.
McCarthy told reporters he expects another meeting with the president and congressional leaders next week.
“The staff has met for the last couple of days and we think it would be beneficial for the staff to meet again,” McCarthy said.
Louisiana GOP Rep. Mike Johnson, a member of McCarthy’s leadership team, told NPR that “we are cautiously optimistic.” Of the ongoing staff talks, Johnson said, “Everybody knows it’s very important for all of that to take place and for the staff to still meet and negotiate.”
What could be on the table for cost cuts?
The representative shepherded the House GOP debt ceiling bill that passed last month. Garrett Graves told reporters earlier Thursday that negotiators should be able to find common ground around these four areas:
- A provision for expediting energy projects
- Adding stricter work requirements for recipients of safety net programs like food stamps
- Withdrawal of unspent Covid-19 relief funds
- Sets spending limits for federal programs over a period of time
A senior Democratic aide told NPR that repatriation of unspent COVID funds is something the president is willing to include in a deal.
Democrats have agreed to curb spending as part of previous bipartisan deals to raise the debt ceiling, but in debates they are pressing Republicans to discuss tax increases as part of any framework.
“If the White House is looking for revenue, they’re looking in the wrong direction,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, RS.D., told reporters.
Graves said he has spoken with senior Biden administration officials, such as climate envoy John Kerry, who agree on the need to pass reforms. House and Senate Democrats — West Virginia Sen. He said he supports changes to the current system — including Joe Manchin. Graves called the plan in the GOP bill a “good start.”
As the clock ticks toward the June opening deadline set by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, when the government will run out of money to pay its bills, some are floating the idea of a short-term extension of the debt ceiling.
McCarthy has repeatedly opposed it, and Johnson told reporters “it’s completely off the table.” But he agreed with Yellen’s timeline for acting and said “default would be terrible for our country.”
NPR reporter Barbara Sprunt contributed to this report.