Standoff in Washington as Default Looms

U.S. President Joe Biden talks with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as they depart following the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, March 17, 2023. | Image by Evelyn Hockstein/REUTERS

The much anticipated Monday afternoon meeting between President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to avoid a looming federal default came and went without a debt ceiling deal.

After the meeting, both men were cautiously optimistic that an agreement would be just a matter of time.

In a statement, Biden said, “I just concluded a productive meeting with Speaker McCarthy about the need to prevent default and avoid a catastrophe for our economy. We reiterated once again that default is off the table and the only way to move forward is in good faith toward a bipartisan agreement.”

The statement acknowledged “areas of disagreement” between himself and McCarthy that would require continued discussion.

McCarthy characterized the meeting as a “productive discussion” despite not having reached an agreement, according to NBC 5. He also summarized the basic Republican position that any deal should include “spend[ing] less next year than we spent this year.”

He later tweeted, “It’s not complicated. It’s common sense. The Democrats spent too much of your money. We can’t afford to spend that much money.”

The two sides disagree not just on the overall amount of government spending but on prioritizing what will be spent and where to make cuts in the budget.

For instance, the White House budget plan would bring the amount spent on defense to $842 billion, a 3.2% increase that would not keep up with the inflation rate, which was at 4.9% over 12 months at the end of April. Republicans view this as a “cut” in spending for an area in which they are demanding an increase.

Instead, Republicans are pushing for cuts as outlined in the Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023 passed by the House in April, which includes cutbacks on discretionary spending and rescission of some funds tied to COVID-19, including the Biden-backed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, among others.

Though talks between House Republicans and the White House continued on Tuesday, a resolution did not seem imminent, with Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) stating that the two sides are still “far apart,” reports CBS News.

Graves added, “until this administration is willing to recognize that they are having record spending, record deficits and record taxes, then we’re not going to be able to come together.”

Congressmen Pete Aguilar (D-CA) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) struck back in the war of words, characterizing the cuts Republicans are demanding as “draconian” and amounting to slashing 30% from domestic programs, per the CBS News report.

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