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Biden, McCarthy end 'productive' debt limit meeting with no deal

At the White House on Monday, President Joe Biden (R) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called their meeting on the nation's debt ceiling "productive," but ended their hour-long negotiation with no deal. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
1 of 7 | At the White House on Monday, President Joe Biden (R) and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called their meeting on the nation's debt ceiling "productive," but ended their hour-long negotiation with no deal. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

May 22 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy were unable to come to an agreement Monday afternoon in their negotiations over the nation's debt ceiling, as they called the talks "productive."

"I felt we had a productive discussion. We don't have an agreement yet," McCarthy told reporters outside of the Oval Office on Monday after the meeting.

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"We still have differences. We left the meeting with directing the members of the staff to get back together, work through the night, knowing where some of our differences lie, see if there's other ideas of where we can work through," McCarthy told reporters later at the Capitol.

"We literally talked about where we are having disagreements and ideas," McCarthy added. "So to me, that's productive, not progress, but productive."

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"I actually believe at the end of the day, we can come to an agreement," McCarthy said. "We are too close to give up."

The roughly one-hour meeting comes with a June deadline for a resolution fast approaching. Biden was optimistic in a statement released by the White House after Monday's talks.

"I just concluded a productive meeting with Speaker McCarthy about the need to prevent default and avoid a catastrophe for our economy," Biden said.

"We reiterated once again that default is off the table and the only way to move forward is in good faith toward a bipartisan agreement," the president added.

"While there are areas of disagreement, the speaker and I, and his lead negotiators Chairman McHenry and Congressman Graves and our staffs will continue to discuss the path forward."

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who also attended the meeting and has been participating in negotiations with administration officials, said Monday's talks provided greater clarity on how to move forward.

"It told us as the negotiating team a little more of the details we need to get to a package, a package that can pass Congress," McHenry said.

Earlier Monday, McCarthy said he felt "hopeful," but clarified there was still some distance between Republicans and the president on several issues.

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Republicans have pushed to reduce spending on federal programs, while Biden and Democrats have called to meet the nation's debt obligations without strings attached.

Spending cuts in McCarthy's plan would continue during the next decade. It would include taking back non-obligated COVID-19 relief funds, blocking Biden's proposed student loan forgiveness plan, increasing requirements for food assistance, and reducing tax cuts for clean energy programs.

"Just got off the phone with the president while he's out of the country," McCarthy tweeted Sunday, as Biden was attending the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. "My position has not changed. Washington cannot continue to spend money we do not have at the expense of children and grandchildren. Tomorrow, he and I will meet in person to continue negotiations."

As of Friday, the White House remained firm on rejecting cuts to federal programs as part of a debt ceiling agreement.

"I'm not going to agree to a deal that protects, for example, a $30 billion tax break for the oil industry, which made $200 billion last year," Biden said at the summit. "They don't need an incentive of another $30 billion, while putting healthcare of 21 million Americans at risk by going after Medicaid."

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Before McCarthy's meeting with the president, Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday warned that, should a debt limit deadline agreement not be reached, the nation will be unable to pay its bills early next month and possible as early as June 1.

In an interview on Sunday, Yellen also had said June is the "hard deadline" for the government to raise the debt ceiling and avoid default. She estimated that it is unlikely that the United States will be able to pay all of its bills through June 15 unless action is taken.

Lawmakers have raised the debt ceiling 78 times in the last 63 years, including 49 times under Republican presidents, according to the Treasury Department. The ceiling was raised three times during Donald Trump's four years in office.

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