Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Wednesday left a meeting with President Biden signaling optimism about the chances of an agreement between the White House and Congress to avoid a government default, though neither side made any commitments.
“I don’t want to put any words in his mouth. We had an hour of conversation about this that I thought was a very good discussion, and we walked out saying we would continue the discussion,” McCarthy told reporters at the White House. “And I think there is an opportunity here to come to an agreement on both sides.”
McCarthy acknowledged he and Biden had differing perspectives on the debt ceiling, though he did not get into specifics, saying he would not negotiate through the press. Biden and White House officials have said Congress should raise the debt limit without conditions, while some Republicans have argued any vote to raise the debt ceiling should include cuts to government spending.
The meeting marked the first in a long process that’s expected to culminate in early summer.
The Speaker did appear to rule out one compromise idea that has been floated, in which Congress would vote to raise the debt limit in exchange for the creation of a commission studying ways to curb spending.
“I don’t need a commission to tell me where there’s waste, fraud and abuse… Nobody needs a commission in the American public to tell us that we have spent too much,” McCarthy said.
The meeting marked the first in a long process that’s expected to culminate in early summer. The government is on track to default as early as June if Congress does not raise the debt limit, which could send the U.S. and global economies spiraling. The debt ceiling covers U.S. spending commitments it has already passed, not future spending.
McCarthy would not make any explicit commitments that the U.S. would not default, which the White House said Biden would ask him to do ahead of the meeting. But he repeatedly spoke positively about the meeting with the president and about the path forward.
“There is nothing in there with me walking away that does not believe that at the end of the day we can come to an agreement,” McCarthy said.
Wednesday’s meeting lasted roughly an hour. The meeting focused mostly on the debt ceiling, McCarthy said. The Speaker said he did not talk to the president about the classified documents that were found at his residence and old office, a subject of House GOP investigations.