Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy slammed Democratic President Joe Biden, saying he would rather be the first United States president to default on the debt than make spending cuts.
The White House and the Republican-led House of Representatives have remained locked in a stalemate for weeks over a deal to raise the debt ceiling, leaving both sides in a difficult position as the crucial deadline to fund the federal government approaches.
Biden and McCarthy have been embroiled in negotiations over the budget, with the Democrat seeking an increase in the amount of debt the U.S. is allowed to carry to fund a number of his party’s preferred programs as well as military spending, including aid to Ukraine. McCarthy is calling for broad spending reductions across the government. Following what the Republican leader described as frustrating talks on Friday, neither party appears close to agreeing to a deal to avert a federal financial crisis before the June 1 deadline. If an agreement isn’t reached before then, the U.S. may default on its debt for the first time ever, with devastating consequences for the national and global economy.
With the nation’s debt topping $31.5 trillion, many members of the GOP-controlled House have held firm in their stance that raising the debt ceiling without budget cuts would be irresponsible. Meanwhile, Democrats in the Senate have been urging the White House to consider a tax hike on the wealthy to avoid making spending reductions or defaulting.
Newsweek reached out via email to representatives for Biden and McCarthy.
McCarthy told reporters as he left the Capitol on Saturday that he doesn’t think debt limit talks can move forward until the president is back from his trip to Hiroshima, Japan for the G7 Summit, according to The Associated Press (AP).
The speaker echoed his belief on Twitter, saying Saturday evening that negotiations are “moving backward.”
“The White House is moving backward in negotiations,” he said. “Unfortunately, the socialist wing of the Democrat Party appears to be in control—especially with President Biden out of the country.”
McCarthy took to Twitter again Saturday night to chastise Biden, saying the president would rather bow to “radical socialists” than find savings to avoid a default.
“President Biden doesn’t think there is a single dollar of savings to be found in the federal government’s budget,” the California Republican tweeted. “He’d rather be the first president in history to default on the debt than to risk upsetting the radical socialists who are calling the shots for Democrats right now.”
It is unclear when negotiations will reconvene, however, Biden officials confirmed the president will call the speaker on Sunday, the AP reports.
Despite McCarthy’s criticism, Biden remains optimistic that they will reach a deal.
“We’ll be able to avoid a default, and we’ll get something decent done,” Biden told reporters at the G7 Summit on Saturday.
Biden and the Democratic leadership have unwaveringly refused to tie a debt ceiling increase to federal spending, insisting that Congress act without preconditions as it has done in the past.
As the standoff continues, a mounting number of senators from both parties have also been discussing the possibility of Biden invoking a clause in the 14th Amendment that some legal scholars say allows the president to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. Biden previously said that he was “considering” the untested theory, but the move would likely face a legal battle.