President Biden on Saturday dismissed vocal statements from both sides in the debt and spending negotiations that are gripping Washington, dismissing them as little more than the attitude typical of any negotiation and expressing confidence that he is still in the Will be able to reach an agreement with Republicans on the debt ceiling.
On the sidelines of a summit in Hiroshima, Japan, Mr Biden told reporters he was not worried about debt talks in his home country. “Not at all,” he said. He later added, “I still believe we can avoid a default and do something sensible.”
But on Sunday morning, Mr. Biden’s advisers in Japan sounded the alarm again. They said Mr Biden instructed his team to schedule a call with spokesman Kevin McCarthy on Sunday after Mr Biden’s meeting with leaders of the Group of Seven.
Mr. Biden’s comments came after a tumultuous period of forays and parades across the oceans. Mr McCarthy on Friday abruptly declared a “pause” in talks aimed at raising the debt ceiling to avoid a sovereign default while agreeing on ways to reduce the deficit, only to have his negotiators back at the table later in the day send. But that session was called off after just an hour, and the White House responded by releasing a scathing statement accusing Republicans of sticking to “extreme MAGA priorities.”
Republican leaders on Saturday continued to blame White House negotiators for what they described as deteriorating discussions. Mr McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol that he did not think negotiations could “progress” until Mr Biden returned to the United States.
“The White House is going backwards in the negotiations,” he wrote on Twitter. In a separate post, he blamed Mr. Biden for the impasse, claiming the president “didn’t think there was a single dollar of savings to be found in the federal government’s budget.”
The president basically called it all theater that nobody should take too seriously. “It’s going in stages,” he told reporters during a meeting with Australia’s prime minister. “And what happens is that the first meetings weren’t that progressive, the second ones were, the third one was, and then what happens is that the sponsors” — that is, the negotiators — “go back to the principals and say, ‘That is what we do.” “I think about it and then people make new demands.”
Pointing out that he had conducted many such negotiations in his half-century in Washington, he made it clear that he felt such positioning was little more than a show — presumably including the statement that his own staff barely made submitted an hour earlier. He pointed out that each side must take a clear stance in order to get the best deal for itself. But that doesn’t mean they can’t ultimately reach consensus, he added.
Mr. Biden’s public confidence in the prospects of an agreement has sparked resentment among some liberals, who fear he will give away too much to Mr. McCarthy’s Republicans, including job requirements for recipients of assistance to those in need. As it stands, the President has essentially abandoned his insistence that he will not negotiate spending limits as part of an agreement to raise the debt ceiling; The White House claims that the current spending talks are theoretically independent of the issue of raising the debt ceiling, a characterization few others accept.
The two sides have reached some agreement in talks over the past week, including on recovering unspent funds from previously approved Covid relief legislation. They’ve also broadly agreed on some sort of cap on discretionary federal spending for at least the next two years. But they’re hanging on to the details of those caps, including how much should be spent overall on discretionary programs next fiscal year — and how that spending should be split between the military and other programs.
The White House’s latest offer calls for military spending, as well as other spending — including education, scientific research, environmental protection and more — to remain constant from the current fiscal year to the next. Republicans have proposed a nominal decline in overall discretionary spending next year, but it’s not evenly distributed. in their plan, military spending would continue to increase.
The far-right MPs at McCarthy’s conference, who were increasingly vocal in their concern that the speaker would agree to a deal that would freeze spending at current levels rather than last year’s levels, seemed pleased with the increasingly defiant rhetoric of the Find GOP Guide. Texas Rep. Chip Roy, a key Conservative, tweeted approvingly the collapse of the talks, writing that House Republicans “are fighting for the military, veterans, border security and fiscal responsibility.”
For days, Mr. Biden and his staff traveling with him in Japan have expressed optimism that they could work out a deal by or shortly after the President’s return to Washington on Sunday, in time to raise the debt ceiling before the country would otherwise achieve default on June 1st. It was unclear when the negotiators planned to meet again. The White House has essentially approved the president’s schedule for next week, presumably to allow for further talks.
Mr. Biden’s comments to reporters on Saturday left mixed messages within hours. The White House started the day in Japan with a briefing from Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, who gave a more measured assessment of the talks than the positive tone of the past few days, saying that an agreement would depend on Mr McCarthy “being in negotiate in good faith” and that everyone should recognize that “you don’t get everything you want.”
She stressed that “we need Republicans and Democrats,” alluding to concerns that Congressional Democrats could back out of an eventual deal if they felt the president had gone too far. However, she denied that the White House was more pessimistic and used the word “optimistic” 14 times during her briefing.
Three hours later, after Mr. Biden spoke to his negotiators in Washington, his communications director, Ben LaBolt, issued a very different statement, in which he never used the word “optimistic.”
“Republicans are holding the economy hostage and bringing us to the brink of default, which could cost millions of jobs and plunge the country into recession after two years of steady job and wage growth,” LaBolt said.
“Republicans,” he added, are “recycling a barely watered-down version of their extreme budget proposal” that would result in spending cuts on education, law enforcement and health care while reversing plans to hire more IRS agents to fight tax dodgers and would extend tax breaks under President Donald J. Trump. He added that any deal should include tax increases for the wealthy and corporations, not just spending cuts.
“There remains a way forward to reach a reasonable bipartisan agreement when Republicans return to the table to negotiate in good faith,” Mr. LaBolt said. “But President Biden will not accept a wish list of extreme MAGA priorities that would penalize the middle class and Americans most in need and set back our economic progress.”
The federal government hit its statutory debt ceiling of $31.4 trillion months ago. The Treasury has used a series of accounting maneuvers to avoid breaching the regulations but has said it could run out of options as early as June 1, which would plunge the country into default for the first time as it fails to meet its obligations fails to comply unless Congress and the President agree.
Catie Edmondson reported from Washington and Jim Tankersley from Hiroshima, Japan.