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Clock's ticking: White House meeting fails to bring McCarthy, Biden closer to debt ceiling deal

McCarthy: There are only 15 days left to reach some sort of agreement to raise the debt limit and curb federal spending.

Published: May 16, 2023 11:03pm

The clock is ticking fast toward the deadline to raise the nation's borrowing authority after the third White House meeting Tuesday between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy ended without a deal or even any specifics about a compromise.

McCarthy said after departing the meeting only that negotiators had "set the stage" for further conversations and that nothing concrete had been agreed upon.

"We've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time," said the California Republican, who was joined at the meeting by other White House and congressional negotiators.

McCarthy acknowledged there are only 15 days left to reach an agreement to raise the debt limit and curb federal spending.

The speaker said he would have preferred not to be negotiating at the last minute but both sides haven't been able to come to an agreement since their first meeting in February. 

Congressional Republicans essentially want spending cuts in exchange for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling.

Biden and Democrats congressional leaders have been calling for an increase to the debt limit with no attachments.

The House GOP passed a bill in late April that that would reform domestic spending, in part, by limiting it to a 1% growth per year and reverting to fiscal 2022 levels. The reforms would be tied to a $1.5 trillion increase to the debt limit.

A large group of Senate Republicans held a press conference earlier this month to express support for the House GOP debt limit bill.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there aren't 60 votes in the Senate for a clean debt ceiling without some spending reforms attached.

On Tuesday, McConnell said that he's prepared to deliver as many GOP votes as possible for whatever agreement Biden and McCarthy hash out.

In a sign of how serious Biden takes Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's warning about the consequences of the debt ceiling not being raised and the U.S. not being able to pay its debts, Biden announced Tuesday that he plans to shorten his overseas trip to the G7 due to the stalled negotiations.

He is scheduled to depart for Japan on Wednesday.

McCarthy expressed some optimism on Tuesday, saying it's possible that an agreement could be reached before the end of this week.

He explained that Biden has changed the structure of the talks as of Tuesday after he decided to appoint a lead negotiator to represent him in the discussions with congressional leadership staff – a move he hoped would have been made earlier.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the third meeting as "productive" and said everyone at the table agreed that Congress and the White House need to avoid default on the debt. 

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