Biden, McCarthy standoff over budget intensifies as deadline looms

In an apparent dig at Biden's age, McCarthy offered to bring "soft food."

April 1, 2023, 2:07 PM

Tensions boiled over this week between the White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with both refusing to blink amid an impasse on the budget and debt ceiling.

McCarthy pressed President Joe Biden to start more robust negotiations over raising the nation's borrowing limit ahead of the Congressional Budget Act’s April 15 deadline, marking the first major step in weeks on the issue.

"Simply put: You are on the clock. It's time to drop the partisanship, roll up our sleeves, and find common ground on this urgent challenge," McCarthy wrote in a letter to the president on March 28.

Biden suggested there's little point in a sit-down until House Republicans introduce a formal budget, which he called on them to do before the Easter recess.

"I look forward to talking with you about our Nation's economic and fiscal future. But for that conversation to be productive, we should both tell the American people what we are for," Biden told McCarthy.

McCarthy argued Biden was responsible for the delay in the release of Congress’s proposal.

"Well, we were going to do the budget in April but unfortunately the president's so late with his budget, it delays our budget," the speaker said last month.

Lawmakers left Washington on Thursday with no proposal in sight and aren't due to return until the week of April 17. McCarthy has not detailed a timeline for when the budget will be released, and Texas Rep. Jodey Arrington, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, told the Wall Street Journal that it could be months before the party produces a budget.

House Republicans are demanding significant spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling to avoid an unprecedented and economically catastrophic default. In his letter this week to Biden, McCarthy outlined several areas where federal spending could be reduced: lowering "excessive non-defense" spending to pre-inflation levels, reclaiming unspent COVID-19 funds and strengthening work requirements for social programs.

Biden and Democrats, on the other hand, have called for a "clean" increase to the debt ceiling not tied to federal spending.

The president rolled out his 2024 budget on March 9 in a campaign-style event in Philadelphia, telling a union crowd the proposal was a reflection of his values. Included in his plan is a record amount of defense spending and funds for Biden's pledges on paid family leave, universal preschool and other domestic policies. His plan is seemingly dead on arrival in Congress, where Republicans are opposed to the tax increases Biden's pitched to pay for his policies.

"It's been three weeks we've had our budget out," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Thursday. "Three weeks, and we have seen nothing from the House Republicans. Nothing."

At one point the back-and-forth between the two leaders over the fiscal differences descended into personal jabs, with McCarthy making an apparent dig at Biden's age.

"I don't know what more I can do. … I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if that's what he wants. It doesn't matter. Whatever it takes to meet," Biden said at a press conference Thursday.

Jean-Pierre shot back: "He can bring anything he wants as long as he brings a budget."

PHOTO: In this March 17, 2023, file photo, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talk as they depart the U.S. Capitol on Saint Patrick's Day in Washington, D.C.
In this March 17, 2023, file photo, President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy talk as they depart the U.S. Capitol on Saint Patrick's Day in Washington, D.C.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images, FILE

Biden and McCarthy last met to discuss the debt ceiling and federal spending on Feb. 1.

The United States is currently using "extraordinary measures" to continue to pay the nation's bills, but those measures are expected to be exhausted sometime this summer.

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