Washington — President Biden will still leave for Japan as scheduled on Wednesday but skip stops in Australia and Papua New Guinea to return to the U.S. early to work on the debt ceiling, the White House said.
That news came as the president met with the top four congressional leaders on the debt ceiling, with time running out to reach a deal to avert a default on the nation's debt. Mr. Biden met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Vice President Kamala Harris, one week after their continued to meet throughout the week and over the weekend.with the two sides still far apart. Members of their staff
Schumer described the meeting as "good," while Jeffries described it as "positive" and "cordial." The president called the meeting "productive." Schumer said everyone in the room understood what a disaster default would be.
McCarthy said the key progress from the meeting was that the president agreed to appoint someone from the White House to negotiate with someone from the speaker's office, narrowing the number of people navigating a deal. McConnell, who has lived through multiple debt ceiling negotiations, has long said a deal is up to the president and the speaker.
McCarthy said the sides are still very far apart, but said "it is possible to get a deal by the end of the week."
Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and senior Biden adviser Steve Richetti will represent the White House in talks with McCarthy's representatives, according to a White House official.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the U.S. could beon its debt as soon as June 1.
Republicans want to raise the limit on the country's borrowing authority in exchange for spending cuts, while Democrats, including Mr. Biden, want to increase the debt limit without any conditions attached. Mr. Biden insists raising or suspending the debt ceiling is Congress' responsibility to handle, while Republicans say Mr. Biden and Democrats on Capitol Hill must compromise on spending.
McCarthy has expressed that he believes an agreement needs to come together before the weekend in order to give lawmakers enough time to pass both chambers of Congress before June.
On Monday, McCarthy disputed the idea that there has been progress in debt limit negotiations, telling reporters, "Nothing's moved." McCarthy is still opposed to the idea of a short-term debt limit increase.
On Tuesday morning, McCarthy said including additional work requirements for able-bodied people with no dependents is a red line for any deal.
"What work requirements actually do — help people get a job," McCarthy told reporters. "... The public wants it. Both parties want it. The idea that they want to put us into a default because they will not work with us on that is ludicrous to me."
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