McCarthy uses CBO briefing to goad Biden into debt limit talks

Spokesman Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) took aim at President Biden as he emerged from a bipartisan members’ briefing by the Director of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), urging the President to schedule another meeting to agree on raising the debt ceiling negotiate.

“If the President delays our opportunity to negotiate together to help solve this problem, it will only hurt our economy even more,” McCarthy said Wednesday.

The prepared presentation by CBO Director Phillip Swagel warned that revenues will not keep pace with expenses under current legislation and that major trust funds, including Social Security and Medicare, will be exhausted within 10 years.

“The longer measures are delayed, the greater the political changes would have to be,” it said.

Biden and McCarthy had a meeting at the White House on Feb. 1, where the speaker exuded optimism about negotiating spending cuts as a condition of raising the debt ceiling. But negotiations have since stalled, and the White House said Republicans should release their proposed budget first.

McCarthy said Biden has not reported back since that February meeting.

“I think he will eventually, but it’s a wasted month,” McCarthy said. “This is a month that comes with more doubts financially. This is a month that hurts Americans. The sooner we get together, the better off all of America will be.”

The briefing was a move by McCarthy to focus on spending and debt. Congress must vote on raising the debt ceiling by an expected deadline in the summer — an exact date by which the Treasury Department’s “extraordinary measures” will be exhausted is uncertain — to avoid severe economic fallout.

McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) both thanked House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (DN.Y.) for bringing Democrats and Republicans together for the briefing.

“We can agree to go against our vision, our plans and our strategies to bend the curve, put ourselves on a sustainable path and save the country from a debt crisis. But what we can’t do is disagree about the math,” said House Budget Committee Chairman Jodey Arrington (R-Texas). “So today wasn’t about Republicans or Democrats. It’s about the mathematical reality that our country is facing.”

However, Democrats saw the timing as strategic. Biden is expected to release his budget Thursday, which is expected to include tax hikes for wealthy individuals and businesses, which he estimates could reduce the deficit by $2 trillion over a decade.

“He wants us to look at the budget with that in mind. We can say, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We can’t spend anymore. We’re already in the red,’” said Rep. Jamaal Bowman (DN.Y.). “And it’s like our budget doesn’t really work that way.”

And rather than distract Democrats from Biden’s positions on the budget, House Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) said the event “lays the groundwork for the president’s budget.”

“He’s trying to make our tax code work for ordinary Americans and protect Medicare in the future,” Clark said.

The findings, which lawmakers were briefed about during the presentation, also included projections showing that publicly held federal debt is on track to hit a record high in 2033 and climb to 118 percent of GDP before 2053 195 percent achieved according to the presentation slides published by the CBO.

Republicans who walked out of the presentation attempted to give the green light to spending under the Biden administration and put pressure on the White House to come to the table on spending talks.

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“Speaker McCarthy has stated many times that he would like to have further discussions with President Biden to see how he can address this issue,” Scalise said.

Jeffries, like the White House, has hinted that the ball is in the Republicans’ court and said he hopes the House GOP will release a budget soon.

“We must start from common facts to address the challenges ahead. President Biden will release his budget tomorrow. It will be in the public domain and will set out the Democrats’ vision for building a strong economy for everyday Americans,” Jeffries said.

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