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Biden says he is ‘confident’ about reaching debt ceiling deal with Republicans

“Every leader in the room understands the consequences of failure,” Biden said. “We’re going to come together because there’s no alternative.”
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Wednesday he is confident congressional leaders can reach a deal to raise the nation’s borrowing limit before the clock runs out on a potential default.

“I’m confident that we will get an agreement on the budget,” Biden said at the White House, calling the talks “civil and respectful.” He added, “Everyone came in good faith.”

“We’re going to come together because there’s no alternative,” he said. “Every leader in the room understands the consequences of failure.”

Biden insisted he was not negotiating to raise the debt ceiling and said the talks were about spending.

Asked whether he would accept work requirements for some federal aid programs, a potential sticking point in the negotiations, Biden kept the door open but said he would not accept “much beyond” the Clinton-era policies he supported as a senator.

Biden spoke moments before he departed for Japan, where he will meet with world leaders. He has cut his trip short to return to the U.S. to continue debt negotiations but said he would hold a news conference about the latest in the talks Sunday.

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to hold an on-camera briefing at around 12:40 p.m. Thursday to provide the nation with a status update about "preventing default," NBC News learned Wednesday.

Republicans are pushing for stricter rules around federal aid programs, such as tougher work requirements.

Biden has opened the door to some concessions but said he will not consider cuts that could push people into poverty. He appeared to harden his position late Tuesday after staff negotiators met at the Capitol. Democrats have rejected the Republican requests as nonstarters.

“The policies House Republicans are proposing would take away Americans’ health care and increase poverty,” White House spokesman Michael Kikukawa said in a statement. “Republicans couldn’t pass them into law when they had unified control of government—and the President is fighting to ensure they will not be in a bipartisan budget agreement.”

Negotiations have grown more urgent as Biden heads to meet with Group of Seven allies, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated that the U.S. could hit the debt ceiling as soon as June 1.

After a second round of talks at the White House on Tuesday, Biden said there was an “overwhelming consensus” among the group of congressional leaders that defaulting on the debt was not an option. 

Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., have each tapped negotiators with the authority to make agreements, a decision McCarthy praised.

Biden and the Democratic-controlled Senate are adamant that a bill to lift the debt ceiling must be dealt with separately from next year’s budget. The Republican-led House has, meanwhile, called for returning the budget to fiscal year 2022 levels and held a firm line on the need for work requirements for federal aid programs.