(WASHINGTON) — President Joe Biden is expected to pose two questions to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during a Wednesday meeting and will challenge him to commit to avoiding a catastrophic default and unveil a specific, detailed and comprehensive budget, according to a White House memo obtained first by ABC News.
The highly anticipated meeting comes amid an ongoing standoff over the debt limit.
According to the memo, the president is expected to ask McCarthy if he will “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations” and whether he agrees with “former presidents, including Presidents Trump and Reagan, that it is critical to avoid debt limit brinksmanship.”
The memo — written by senior advisers Brian Deese and Shalanda Young — notes President Biden will release a budget on March 9 and challenges McCarthy to do the same.
“It is essential that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit – whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act (ACA) health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education, and public safety – as well as how much their Budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations, as in their first bill this year.”
McCarthy responded to the memo in a statement on Tuesday, writing: “Mr. President: I received your staff’s memo. I’m not interested in political games. I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”
Republicans in the House have insisted on deep spending cuts in exchange for their cooperation on raising the debt ceiling.
The Republican Study Committee, which represents the largest group of Republicans in the House, previously called for revisions to Social Security and Medicare including raising the age for Medicare to 67 and Social Security to the age of 70 for younger workers.
But McCarthy recently said any cuts to Social Security and Medicare would be “off the table.”
McCarthy pointed to the “Commitment to America” plan presented by Republicans before the midterms, which he said “strengthens” Medicare and Social Security. The White House has accused McCarthy of being “evasive” on his plan for government spending.
Pressed on what he meant by “strengthen” and whether he would seek to raise the retirement age — McCarthy said: “No, no, no. What I’m talking about Social Security, Medicare, you keep that to the side.”
“I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling but take control of this runaway spending,” McCarthy said.
Meanwhile, the White House has repeatedly said Biden will not negotiate or compromise by tying a debt limit increase to spending cuts, with the administration pointing to the bipartisan history of the ceiling being increased by both parties over the years.
“Attempts to exploit the debt ceiling as leverage will not work,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters earlier this month. “There will be no hostage taking.”
Earlier this month, McCarthy made it clear he was holding firm.
“For the president to say he wouldn’t even negotiate — that’s irresponsible. We’re going to be responsible. We’re going to be sensible, and we’re going to get this done together. So the longer he waits, the more he puts the fiscal jeopardy of America up for grabs,” McCarthy told ABC News’ Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott earlier this month. “We should sit down and get this done and stop playing politics,” he added.
The debt limit doesn’t allow government spending on new programs — instead it allows the U.S. to borrow any money it needs to pay for the nation’s existing bills.
The federal government hit the current debt ceiling, about $31.4 trillion earlier this month prompting the Treasury Department to step in with “extraordinary measures” which will allow the nation to avert a catastrophic default until June.
“President Biden will ask Speaker McCarthy to publicly assure the American people and the rest of the world that the United States will, as always, honor all of its financial obligations,” the memo states.
Editor’s note: This article has been revised to reflect an updated memo released by the administration.
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