Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy meet to seek common ground on US debt ceiling

US leaders are locked in a stand-off over raising the federal government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling

US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy after his meeting with President Joe Biden. Reuters
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy met on Wednesday in the Oval Office of the White House for a discussion on the US debt ceiling.

"The President and I had a good first meeting," Mr McCarthy said after the meeting ended. "I shared my perspective with him and he shared his.

"I can see where we can find common ground."

Mr McCarthy practically forced the invitation in an effort to push his agenda before a summer debt deadline.

Mr Biden has resisted direct negotiations over raising the nation’s legal debt ceiling, warning that it could throw the economy into chaos.

Mr McCarthy arrived with no real agenda or budget proposals, but he has made promises to far-right and other conservative Republican legislators during his difficult campaign to become House Speaker.

He was elected on a historic post-midnight 15th ballot, eventually winning over holdouts, or "Never Kevins", from his own party.

“For days, Speaker McCarthy has heralded this sit down as some kind of major win in his debt-ceiling talks,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said.

“Speaker McCarthy showing up at the White House without a plan is like sitting down at the table without cards in your hand.”

The political and economic stakes are high for both leaders, who have an affable relationship, and for the nation as they worked to prevent a debt default.

Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had yet to submit an agenda on the debt ceiling. Getty /AFP

Newly empowered in the majority, House Republicans wants to force Mr Biden and Senate Democrats into budget cuts as part of a deal to raise the limit, even though the White House has ruled that out as the government tries to avoid a potentially devastating financial default.

The Speaker pledged that cuts to social security and Medicare are off the table.

“I know the president said he didn’t want to have any discussion [on cuts], but I think it’s very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise,” Mr McCarthy told CBS.

Mr Biden said earlier that he would ask McCarthy for a specific budget plan and a commitment to supporting the nation's debt obligations, the White House said, and he will discuss federal spending cuts with Republicans but only after the debt ceiling is lifted.

House Republicans want to use the debt ceiling as leverage to exact cuts,al though they have yet to unite around a specific plan.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: February 02, 2023, 6:29 AM