Did the White House Just Open the Door to Caving on the Debt Ceiling?

It was pretty clear as of yesterday that President Joe Biden was in the camp that the debt ceiling would have to be raised no matter what. But now, it seems like the White House has accepted that fact, too – which could create a bigger rift between the White House and Congressional Democrats.


Based on Biden’s comments, it was clear that he was perhaps more open to negotiating than the White House was letting on. As CNN pointed out previously, Biden had remarked on the passage of the House bill to raise the debt ceiling but also make spending cuts by saying he would be “happy to meet with McCarthy, but not on whether or not the debt limit gets extended.”

However, the White House has been adamant that Biden would not accept anything other a clean debt ceiling raise not tied to cuts. But according to the Washington Post this morning, the White House may be changing its tune.

In a piece titled “White House leaves door open to deal that resolves debt ceiling crisis,” the paper notes that while the White House is attempting to make it clear that tying cuts to the debt ceiling is unacceptable, there is room to talk about it.

One way out of this logjam — widely discussed on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue — would be reaching an agreement that each party then defines differently, with Biden claiming he gave up nothing for the debt limit hike and McCarthy claiming he won concessions on spending.

The potential for this “two-track” negotiation is coming into greater focus after the White House announced Monday that Biden had invited McCarthy and the other three top congressional leaders for a sit-down discussion next week. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen also warned Congress on Monday that the United States risks default by as early as June 1 if the limit isn’t raised, sparking renewed urgency for talks to find a potential resolution.

For months, Biden has emphasized that he understands the need to negotiate over funding the government even as he rejects negotiations over the debt limit, spurring speculation about the potential for an implicit compromise.


Next Tuesday’s meeting – between Biden, McCarthy, Mitch McConnell, Hakeem Jeffries, and Chuck Schumer – will see the leaders of both parties negotiating on this battleground.

It is possible, the Post points out, that Biden and McCarthy “could agree to an informal or handshake deal on government spending that resolves the immediate debt limit challenge without finalizing a full budget deal.” But there’s no incentive for McCarthy to go with a handshake deal that risks his Speakership.

The Democrats called McCarthy’s bluff. He delivered a plan that conservatives approved of. If he goes back on that now, the concessions he made to the conservative members of the Republican caucus – particularly the vote to vacate the chair – could kick in. But, even more than that, McCarthy knows something the Democrats refuse to admit: The Republicans have nothing to lose.

That’s why he can stand his ground and not worry about much. It’s now on Biden to compromise with McCarthy. The GOP is already being portrayed as the villain in this fight. There’s nowhere left to go but up. Biden, however, risks being seen as the cause of a major crisis if he doesn’t negotiate. He told McCarthy to submit a plan. McCarthy did. If Biden doesn’t respond with negotiation, then he’s the extreme one.


And he can’t afford that heading into re-election.


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