House Speaker Kevin McCarthy speaks during a press conference in Washington after the House passed H.R.1, or The Low Energy Costs Act, on Thursday. Later in the day, McCarthy said Republican lawmakers will pass a debt ceiling bill if President Joe Biden refuses to negotiate. File by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
March 30 (UPI) -- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Thursday that Republican lawmakers will pass a debt ceiling bill if President Joe Biden refuses to negotiate.
McCarthy said House Republicans are "very close" to reaching an agreement within the party on a bill that would include a borrowing limit extension with cuts and caps to discretionary spending, NBC News and The Hill reported.
A possible bill also would seek to recover unspent relief funds doled out during the COVID-19 pandemic and set new work requirements for federal benefits -- as well as energy and border legislation.
"If the president doesn't act, we will," McCarthy said.
Biden and McCarthy have been locked in a stalemate over the issue. McCarthy's comments come after Biden called on the top Republican to produce the party's budget proposal before the Easter recess.
The president made the request in a letter he sent to McCarthy, in response to one the Republican lawmaker sent him earlier that day demanding a meeting to discuss the debt limit as the June deadline approaches.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier this week that Biden "welcomes a separate conversation" about budget policy as the Biden administration has pushed McCarthy for a debt ceiling measure not tied to any budget concessions.
"We have been reasonable, responsible, asked to sit down with the president for months. He is making the decision that he wants to put the economy in jeopardy. I don't know what more I can do," McCarthy said, according to NBC News.
House Republicans took a slim majority after the midterm elections last year, with the lower chamber now pitted against the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House.
Democrats and some Republicans have questioned whether McCarthy would have the votes to pass the budget proposal.
"He doesn't name anything specific at all. So if they were to sit down, you'd have to ask yourself, what are Speaker McCarthy and President going to talk about -- the weather?" Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters earlier this week after McCarthy's letter.
"We have a plan. We want to pass the debt ceiling without hostage-taking, without brinksmanship, just get it done like we've done under both Presidents [Donald] Trump and Biden. They still don't have a plan."
Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, told The Hill that he believes Biden will eventually negotiate with Republican lawmakers. "That's going to happen. The only question is when," Roy said.