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Biden says he's "confident" U.S. "will not default" as debt ceiling talks continue

Critical negotiations remain on debt ceiling
Critical negotiations remain on debt ceiling after second White House meeting 06:36

Washington — President Biden on Wednesday said he's "confident" the U.S. "will not default" on its debt ahead of a fast-approaching deadline to reach an agreement with lawmakers to raise or suspend the debt ceiling

Speaking at the White House before leaving on a trip to Japan for a meeting of world leaders, one which he is cutting short to address the debt ceiling, the president said he believes he will reach an agreement with congressional leaders because "there is no alternative."

"We had a productive meeting yesterday with all four leaders in the Congress. It was civil and respectful and everyone came to the meeting, I think, in good faith. I'm confident that we'll get the agreement on the budget, that America will not default," Mr. Biden said. "The leaders have all agreed, we will not default. Every leader has said that."

The president has refused for months to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, saying Congress should address the issue with no strings attached. House Republicans are pushing for spending cuts in exchange for raising or suspending the limit. Mr. Biden framed the ongoing talks as concerning "the budget," in an attempt to frame the debt ceiling issue as separate from talks over spending.

"To be clear, this negotiation is about the outlines of what the budget will look like, not about whether we are going to pay our debts," he said.

Congress and the White House have roughly two weeks to reach an agreement to address the debt ceiling before the U.S. will be unable to pay its bills and default on its debt, an unprecedented event that would send shockwaves through the global economy. The president is cutting short his trip to Asia to continue working toward a deal, skipping scheduled stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea, and returning Sunday to Washington.

Mr. Biden he'll hold a press conference on the debt ceiling and other topics on Sunday. 

Representatives for the president and for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are continuing to meet Wednesday, after Mr. Biden, McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell gathered at the White House on Tuesday. 

McCarthy also struck a somewhat optimistic tone about the negotiations after Tuesday's meeting, saying it was "a little more productive" than previous sessions but cautioning that the two sides are still "a long way apart." He said he and the president both named negotiating teams to continue talks at a lower level. 

On the Senate floor Wednesday morning, Schumer called the Tuesday meeting "the most positive we've had." 

"There was goodwill, an openness to work together, and it was a promising step forward," Schumer said. 

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden didn't draw a red line on stricter work requirements for entitlement programs, something Republicans want in any agreement. The president told reporters he won't accept work requirements that negatively affect people's health or that go significantly beyond current requirements. 

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