House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) on Tuesday said President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders remain unwilling to negotiate on a bill to raise the debt limit, a development that moves the United States closer to default.
"Is it too much to ask that we spend what we spent five months ago?" McCarthy said at a press conference immediately following his meeting at the White House.
Neither Biden nor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) indicated they would budge on their demands that Congress pass a clean debt ceiling bill, McCarthy said. In his own remarks, Schumer accused House Republicans of holding "the American people as a hostage."
The Thursday meeting was the first time Republican and Democratic leaders have met to discuss the debt limit. For months, Biden has refused to speak with McCarthy and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) about Republican plans to raise the debt ceiling while capping federal spending. Biden instead insists that Congress must pass a "clean" debt ceiling hike without touching federal spending. The nation debt is nearly $32 trillion.
Without raising the debt ceiling, the Treasury Department and outside analysts expect the United States will run out of money needed to pay its bills by early June. The nation has never defaulted on its debt, which experts unanimously agree would cause disastrous harm to the economy.
House Republicans passed a debt ceiling bill in April that freezes spending at 2022 levels. For the next decade, non-entitlement and defense spending would be limited to a one percent annual increase. No Democrats voted for the bill.
"This is a president who when he was vice president, [the debt] was at $14 trillion," said McCarthy. He later added that Biden voted against debt ceiling hikes in the past as a senator because he didn’t believe there were enough budget cuts.
Schumer largely did not dispute McCarthy’s characterization of the White House meeting. Instead, the Democratic leader said any discussion of spending cuts should take place during budget negotiations. The group is scheduled to meet again Friday.
"The bottom line is very simple. There are large differences between the parties," Schumer said. "If you look at what President Biden has proposed and you look at what Speaker McCarthy has proposed, they’re very, very, different."
Democrats have charged that the Republican spending plan would lead to painful cuts to a variety of federal programs. McCarthy dismissed those allegations and asked "Were people not getting their veteran care, were people not getting everything they asked for five months ago?"
The National Republican Campaign Committee announced a five-figure ad campaign Thursday morning that targets vulnerable House Democrats on the issue. Democrats "refuse to solve the spending crisis they created," the ad states, and are "voting against a common-sense plan to tackle the government spending program."