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Biden rejects McCarthy’s call for meeting without a GOP budget

President opens the door to spending talks next month — if Republicans can release a budget first

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Joe Biden told Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a letter Tuesday evening that he’s willing to meet with the California Republican after the upcoming two-week Easter congressional recess if the House GOP can produce its budget before then.

Responding to McCarthy’s Tuesday morning letter demanding a date for the duo to negotiate on the debt limit, the president opened the door to spending talks next month but reiterated he won’t bargain over the debt limit.

The debt ceiling has been raised “by previous Congresses with no conditions attached and this Congress should act quickly to do so now,” Biden wrote.

“Separately, as you and I discussed earlier, I look forward to talking with you about our Nation’s economic and fiscal future,” he added. “But for that conversation to be productive, we should both tell the American people what we are for.”

[McCarthy to Biden on debt limit: ‘You are on the clock’]

Biden said his budget request, released on March 9, proposes cutting the deficit by $3 trillion over the next decade “by having big corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share, cutting special interest subsidies like tax breaks for the oil and gas industry … and expanding Medicare’s new ability to negotiate lower drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.”

He accused Republicans of seeking to do the reverse, instead adding more than $3 trillion in “new tax spending skewed to the same constituencies who should be paying more” — likely a reference to Republicans’ interest in extending expired or soon-to-expire provisions from the GOP’s 2017 tax law.

“That is one reason why seeing your full set of proposals would be useful before we meet, so we can understand the full combined impact on the deficit, the economy, and American families,” Biden said.

McCarthy has said Republicans shouldn’t need to release their budget in order to negotiate on the debt limit. House Budget Chairman Jodey C. Arrington, R-Texas, said he’s delayed the budget release in part to give McCarthy room to do so.

Biden said his “hope” is that House Republicans would release their budget before leaving for the Easter recess so he could meet with McCarthy afterward. But there’s no chance of Republicans having a budget ready for release in the next two days they have remaining in session before the recess.

Republicans have blamed Biden being a month late in releasing his budget request as part of the reason they cannot meet their April 15 statutory deadline for action on a fiscal 2024 budget resolution.

But Democrats say the reason for a GOP delay stems from Republican divisions over which spending cuts to pursue.

“The reason [McCarthy] doesn’t want to do it, in my judgment, my humble judgment: Because he can’t get 218 votes for any plan,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. “The idea of saying what he said over and over again — let’s meet without a plan — doesn’t advance the ball forward one bit. We have a plan. They don’t.”

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