SHINGTON — The two top Republican congressional leaders plan to attend a White House meeting with President Joe Biden next week to discuss the debt ceiling.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will attend the meeting at the White House on May 9, along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
The president on Monday called the four leaders to invite them to the meeting, speaking to McCarthy while he is in Israel on an official trip, according to a White House official and Capitol Hill sources familiar with the matter.
Biden’s invitation was issued hours after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned in a letter that the U.S. could breach the debt ceiling by June 1 — earlier than expected — if Congress doesn’t act in time. The letter set a narrower timeline for Congress to avert a first U.S. default as Congress and the White House remain deadlocked over the issue.
House Republicans insist on attaching spending cuts to a debt ceiling increase, while Democrats vow not to negotiate over whether to pay the country’s bills or default.
In the meeting, Biden plans to “stress” to congressional leaders that they “must take action to avoid default without conditions,” saying the meeting was scheduled to discuss “the urgency of preventing default,” as well as how to begin negotiating a budget, a White House official told NBC News.
Democrats have insisted on a “clean” debt limit increase without policy conditions and want Congress to negotiate over spending cuts that Republicans have demanded in the separate government funding process, which has a deadline of Sept. 30.
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Schumer and Jeffries said that Biden’s meeting with leaders would be an “appropriate place” to discuss how to avert a debt limit breach.
“That is the appropriate place to debate and discuss our nation’s fiscal picture — not in a hostage-situation in which extreme MAGA Republicans try to impose their radical agenda on America,” they said in a joint statement Monday evening.
“We do not have the luxury of waiting until June 1 to come together, pass a clean bill to avoid a default and prevent catastrophic consequences for our economy and millions of American families. Republicans cannot allow right-wing extremism to hold our nation hostage,” they wrote.
McConnell emphasized Tuesday that the House has passed a bill and Biden should negotiate, saying that the onus is on the president to reach an agreement with McCarthy and that that will be his message when he goes to the White House next week.
Democrats, meanwhile, have insisted on lifting the threat of default before budget negotiations begin.
Schumer began the process Monday night of holding Senate votes on two measures, starting with a new Democratic plan to temporarily suspend the debt ceiling through Dec. 31, 2024.
Democrats may pursue a suspension and not a dollar amount increase, which can be more politically palatable. Multiple Democratic senators say they want to get through the next election with this upcoming debt limit move.
“This discussion’s going on and that’s the way we should proceed,” Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., said.
Second, Schumer put the House-passed Republican bill on the Senate calendar for a potential vote. It isn't scheduled yet, but if he calls a vote it would be to prove the measure cannot pass.
Both of these measures need 60 votes to break a filibuster and neither appears to have that now.
Numerous Democratic senators say the caucus is still determined not to grant policy concessions for a debt limit bill, saying the threat of default should be dealt with separately before any budget talks.
“We don’t try to wiggle out of our debts," said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. "We don’t tell the rest of the world that we’re caught in a big political tangle on whether or not we will pay."