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Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California held a meeting with President Biden on Wednesday, signaling optimism about the chances of reaching an agreement between the White House and Congress to avoid a government default.

Although neither side made any commitments, McCarthy said, “we had an hour of conversation about this that I thought was a very good discussion, and we walked out saying we would continue the discussion. And I think there is an opportunity here to come to an agreement on both sides.”

McCarthy acknowledged that President Biden and himself still had different perspectives on the debt ceiling but declined to go into specifics, stating that he would not negotiate through the press. The White House also commented on their meeting, saying that the Speaker and President Biden had “frank and straightforward dialogue” regarding the debt ceiling. The White House added, “President Biden made clear that, as every other leader in both parties in Congress has affirmed, it is their shared duty not to allow an unprecedented and economically catastrophic default. The United States Constitution is explicit about this obligation, and the American people expect Congress to meet it in the same way all of his predecessors have. It is not negotiable or conditional.”

The Speaker seemed to rule out one compromise idea, in which Congress would vote to raise the debt limit in exchange for the creation of a commission to study ways to curb spending. McCarthy stated that he didn’t need a commission to tell him where there was waste, fraud and abuse in the government and that the American public knew that the government had spent too much. McCarthy said, “I don’t need a commission to tell me where there’s waste, fraud, and abuse.… Nobody needs a commission in the American public to tell us that we have spent too much.”

The meeting was the first of a long process expected to continue through early summer. If Congress fails to raise the debt limit, the US government will default on billions of dollars beginning in June. Economists have warned that such a scenario would guarantee that world markets would fall and could have “catastrophic” impacts on the US economy.


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