WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Thursday that he and President Joe Biden plan to meet again soon to continue talks about how and when to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, one day after they held their first in-person meeting at the White House since Republicans assumed the House majority.
“We left it that he’ll give me a call in a couple of days to set up the next meeting,” the California Republican told reporters in the Capitol.
McCarthy said he and Biden did not discuss any details of their next meeting, such as whether White House aides or members of McCarthy’s leadership team would participate.
If Congress does not pass a bill to raise or suspend the nation’s statutory debt limit by early June, it could wreak economic havoc around the world.
Both Biden and McCarthy say passing a debt limit bill is absolutely essential. But they are deeply at odds on how to do it.
“I believe you have to lift the debt ceiling, but you do not lift the debt ceiling without changing your behavior. So it’s got to be both,” McCarthy said.
Biden and the White House have so far refused to “negotiate” on a debt limit hike, however. Instead, Biden has called on Congress to pass a so-called “clean” bill, meaning one with no legislative strings attached.
That will never happen, the Republican House speaker said Thursday.
“We will not pass a clean debt ceiling here without some form of spending reform. So there will never be a clean one,” McCarthy said. “At the end of the day, we’re going to get spending reforms.”
Despite their differences, McCarthy said that he respected Biden and emphasized that both men see a path forward and the potential for common ground.
“Yesterday was a very nice conversation for more than an hour,” he said. “It didn’t mean we agreed, but we staked out different positions.”
“At the end of the conversation, between both of us, we thought, ‘You know what? This is worthwhile to continue.’ So we’re going to continue it.”
Biden said much the same thing about McCarthy in his remarks at the annual, bipartisan National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday.
“Let’s start treating each other with respect,” Biden said. “That’s what Kevin [McCarthy] and I are going to do.”
“We had a good meeting yesterday,” Biden continued. “It doesn’t mean we’re going to agree, and [not] fight like hell. But let’s treat each other with respect.”
The amicable vibe between Biden and McCarthy stood in stark contrast Thursday to the bitter debate that unfolded on the House floor shortly before Republicans voted to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, of Minnesota, from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The move was over some of her past remarks many said were antisemitic, including tweets she posted in 2019, as a member of Congress, that repeated antisemitic tropes.
More than a dozen of Omar’s fellow Democrats gave impassioned speeches on her behalf Thursday, including several Jewish House members.
Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, fought off tears as she railed against Republicans for targeting Omar. “The GOP is doing what it is best at — weaponizing hate against a Black, beautiful Muslim woman,” Tlaib said, before turning toward Omar. “I am so sorry, sis, that our country is failing you today.”
For her part, Omar was defiant. “I didn’t come to Congress to be silent, I came to Congress to be their voice,” Omar said. “And my leadership and voice will not be diminished if I am not on this committee for one term — my voice will get louder and stronger.”