WASHINGTON — House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) refused on Thursday to discuss former President Donald Trump’s call for Republicans to allow an unprecedented default on the federal government’s debt.
“My concern is President Biden,” McCarthy told reporters. “President Biden doesn’t want a deal. He wants a default.”
Both McCarthy and Joe Biden, along with a host of economists, have said the federal government defaulting on its debts would be an economic catastrophe that could cost millions of jobs. But McCarthy has insisted that Republicans won’t support a bill forestalling that outcome unless Biden and Democrats agree to significant federal spending cuts.
Speaking during a CNN town hall event on Wednesday, Trump said Republicans should hold out for those cuts no matter what.
“I say to you right now, congressmen, senators: If they don’t give you massive cuts, you’re gonna have to do a default,” Trump said, adding that he considered default unlikely because Democrats would “cave” to Republican demands.
“You might as well do it now because you’ll do it later,” Trump added.
The Treasury Department has said that sometime next month, the federal government will run out of spare cash and be unable to pay all of its bills — unless Congress raises the so-called “debt ceiling,” thereby allowing Treasury to continue borrowing so it can meet basic expenses.
McCarthy noted that Republicans passed a bill in the House that would raise the debt ceiling until next year. The legislation would also slash federal spending, and Democrats have said it’s a non-starter in the Senate, meaning it’s highly unlikely to become law.
McCarthy complained that Biden has refused to negotiate over the debt limit, but the two met at the White House on Wednesday and their staff have been talking as well. McCarthy suggested, however, that his face-to-face meeting with the president wasn’t much of a negotiation.
“In whatever talks we have, you can tell right then, he doesn’t want a deal, he wants a default,” McCarthy said.
The speaker ignored a question from HuffPost about whether he still planned to meet with Biden again on Friday as the two sides had previously said would happen.
Nevertheless, at his weekly meeting with reporters, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said he was optimistic about Friday’s meeting at the White House.
“I’m thankful that President Biden has set us on a path toward resolving this issue and that the meeting that is expected to take place at the White House tomorrow will be a continuation of that,” he said. “And I expect that it will go well.”
While none of the participants in Tuesday’s meeting expressed publicly any significant changes in their stances afterward, Jeffries said staff-level discussions continued to take place.
“It’s my understanding it was a very productive conversation at the staff level yesterday. It’s my expectation there will be continued conversations today,” he said.