President Biden on Monday called Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other congressional leaders to invite them to a meeting at the White House on May 9 to discuss the debt ceiling ahead of a looming deadline, a source familiar with the matter confirmed to The Hill.
The president reached out to McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). McCarthy is currently leading a congressional delegation in Israel.
Biden’s outreach came less than two hours after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned lawmakers that the U.S. government could default as early as June 1 if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.
Yellen’s letter is likely to ratchet up the intensity within Washington around the matter as negotiations between Biden and McCarthy came to a standstill in recent weeks. Both have been locked in a standoff with neither willing to cave.
Administration officials and economists have warned a default would have catastrophic consequences for the economy, triggering higher interest rates, job losses and a downturn in financial markets.
The White House has for months maintained that Congress has an obligation to raise the debt ceiling without conditions, pointing to decades of precedent and noting the debt has been accrued over hundreds of years and reflects spending the government has already approved.
Republicans, however, are using the debt ceiling as leverage as they seek significant cuts to government spending programs.
House Republicans last week passed legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through the end of next March, whichever happens first. The bill would cap federal funding hashed out as part of the annual appropriations process at fiscal 2022 levels, while also limiting spending growth to 1 percent every year over the next decade.
Biden has said he will veto the bill, which is considered dead on arrival in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
McCarthy and Biden have not spoken at length about the debt ceiling or government spending since the Speaker visited the White House on Feb. 1. Some Democrats, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have in recent days publicly urged Biden to sit down with McCarthy to negotiate.
The president has said he would be willing to discuss government spending with McCarthy, but that it should be kept separate from any vote to raise the debt ceiling.
“For over 200 years, America has never, ever, ever failed to pay its debt,” Biden said at an event Monday at the White House. “To put in … colloquial terms, America is not a deadbeat nation. We have never, ever failed to meet the debt. … We pay our bills, and we should do so without reckless hostage-taking from some of the MAGA Republicans in Congress.”