What to Know in Washington: Biden, McCarthy Start Budget Talks

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President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will finally size each other up, after weeks of trading public barbs over spending cuts and deficits while the US debt limit hangs in the balance.

“Show me your budget, I’ll show you mine,” Biden said Monday when asked what his message would be when the two meet Wednesday afternoon at the White house.

It’s their first face to face since McCarthy (R-Calif.) won the speaker’s gavel, and veterans of past debt standoffs concur that the threat of a US default is greater than ever. House Republicans are demanding spending reductions, while Biden has said he’s open to fiscal reforms but won’t negotiate over the borrowing cap.

A default would wreak havoc on the economy, raise borrowing costs and rattle the president’s plans to announce a reelection campaign. McCarthy will be eager to strengthen his standing among Republicans after his speakership bid went to 15 ballots, forcing him to make promises to far-right lawmakers that leave him little room to negotiate a compromise.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Joe Biden steps out of the White House before boarding Marine One on Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

McCarthy, speaking Tuesday, called for Biden to negotiate. “Why would you put the economics of America in jeopardy? Why would you play political games? I’m not,” he told reporters, adding he was willing to “get this done long before the debt limit hits a point we have to get something done.”

The first meeting between the new speaker and president is not expected to yield any agreement on how to lift the debt ceiling. Such a solution is expected much closer to the true deadline this summer.

The personal dynamics between the two leaders, though, will be closely watched. Unlike Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) whom Biden served with for decades and personally negotiated fiscal breakthroughs with on several occasions as vice president, Biden’s working relationship with McCarthy is limited.

“It’s kind of like a first date,” said former Speaker Newt Gingrich after meeting with McCarthy on Tuesday, tempering expectations for the encounter between the current speaker and president. Gingrich, a veteran of congressional budget battles during the Clinton years, called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling while also passing “responsible” spending cuts.

Josh Wingrove and Erik Wasson set the stage for the meeting: Biden, McCarthy ‘First Date’ to Set Tone for Upcoming Debt Fight

Happening on the Hill


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  • The Senate meets at 10 a.m. with roll call votes expected.

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Around the Administration


  • Biden at 1:15 p.m. convenes a meeting of his Competition Council regarding administration efforts to increase competition in markets.
  • At 3:15 p.m., the president at the White House meets with Speaker Kevin McCarthy to discuss the debt limit and a “range of issues,” according to Biden’s schedule.
  • Biden holds an event at 5 p.m. to thank outgoing Chief of Staff Ron Klain for his service and welcome incoming Jeff Zients to the role.
  • At 2 p.m. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre gives a briefing.

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Exxon’s Record Profit Is ‘Outrageous’, White House Says

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To contact the reporter on this story: Michaela Ross in Washington at mross@bgov.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Small at asmall@bgov.com

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