WASHINGTON — After speaking with President Joe Biden on the phone Sunday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he agreed to meet in person Monday afternoon to work toward a deal to raise the debt ceiling.
McCarthy and Biden discussed the debt ceiling in a call on Sunday as the president flew back on Air Force One from the G-7 summit in Japan after talks between senior White House aides and House Republicans failed to break an impasse last week.
“I think my discussion with the president was productive,” McCarthy told NBC News after their call, adding that the president had asked to meet in person on Monday and that he had accepted the offer.
“I think we can solve some of these problems,” McCarthy said. “But I’ve been very clear to him from the beginning that we need to spend less money than we spent last year.”
McCarthy said the two sides were “still estranged,” but he and the president had decided during their call to resume their talks.
“Let them brief the president and let him get some sleep. And he wanted to get together privately tomorrow, and I agreed to that, and we’ll do it sometime in the afternoon,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”
A White House official confirmed an upcoming Monday meeting at the White House between Biden and McCarthy, and said their staff would meet again Sunday at 6 p.m. to discuss remaining issues.
McCarthy praised White House negotiators for engaging in “very professional” discussions.
“I have a lot of respect for the people on the president’s team,” he said. “They’re bright, they’re articulate, they know what they’re doing. We may disagree philosophically, but we respect each other because we come from a place of principles. When you come from a place of principles, usually at the end of the day, you find common ground and your Policies can be held concurrently.
The call between Biden and McCarthy came after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” in early June that the federal government had a “difficult deadline” to raise the debt ceiling. A deal could not be reached before the US ran out of money.
In my last letter to Congress, we expect not to be able to pay all our bills until the beginning of June and perhaps June 1st. And I’ll keep updating Congress, but I certainly haven’t changed my assessment,” Yellen said. “So I think it’s a tough deadline.”
During a press conference in Japan on Sunday, the president urged Republicans to “move from their extreme positions,” which he criticized in his opening remarks as “obviously unacceptable.”
“It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan agreement,” he said. “They need to move too.”
Republicans returned to the debt ceiling negotiating table Friday night after temporarily suspending talks with the White House that they said were “not productive.”
House Republicans want to force major spending cuts, part of the negotiations, which are opposed by Biden and have died on their way to the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Democrats are reluctant to accept a lower spending limit than the current level, a source familiar with the party’s position told NBC News last week. Even if a new spending deal fails and the government runs on autopilot through a continuing resolution, the party may prefer to maintain existing positions.
Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., tapped by McCarthy to lead talks with the White House, told reporters Sunday that there had been “a lot of progress” in discussions on the debt ceiling.
“If you look at the laundry list of about 50 items, we’ve made a lot of progress,” Graves said. “Understanding each other’s positions, understanding the red lines. So I think we’ve actually been able to get closer than when we started.