Biden negotiated over debt ceiling as vice president but refuses talks now

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy compared increasing the debt limit to automatically raising the credit limit for your child without looking at what they are buying.
Joe Biden smiling

President Joe Biden negotiated on the debt ceiling as vice president in 2011, but he's refusing to do so now.

House Republicans have been calling for spending cuts in conjunction with an increase to the nation's $31.4 trillion debt limit. 

The debt limit was last increased in December 2021 by $2.5 trillion. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a group of 17 Senate Republicans joined the Democrats in voting for a year-long spending bill in December 2022. The bill did not address the debt limit. 

The U.S. Treasury Department has taken extraordinary measures now that the $31.4 national debt limit has been reached. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. would default by June if a debt limit agreement isn't reached in Congress. 

The White House has said that Biden won't be negotiating on the debt limit. He supports a clean debt ceiling increase without strings attached. 

"It is something that should be done without conditions," said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. "There should be — we should not be negotiating around it.

"It is the duty — the basic duty of Congress to get that done. And so, we're not going to — we're just not going to negotiate about that."

House Speaker McCarthy has said he's ready to discuss the debt limit with the president. 

"If you had a child and you gave them a credit card, and they kept hitting the limit, you wouldn't just keep increasing it," he said on Wednesday. "You'd first see what are you spending your money on? How can we cut items out?"

The House comes back into session on Jan. 24. The Senate returns Feb. 4.

Biden engaged in talks on the debt limit with a bipartisan group of lawmakers in May 2011 when the GOP held the majority in the House and the Democrats had the Senate majority. Back then, the limit was set at $14.3 trillion.