Biden Says He’s “Confident” an Agreement Will be Reached Before Default

May 17, 2023

President Biden spoke ahead of leaving for the G-7 summit in Japan Wednesday, saying he’s “confident that we’ll get the agreement” and “America will not default” on its debt.

His remarks came following a meeting Tuesday at the White House with Congressional leaders—House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as well as Vice President Harris.

“Every leader in the room understands the consequences if we fail to pay our bills,” Biden said Wednesday. “And it would be catostrophic for the American economy and the American people if we didn’t pay our bills.”

He noted that he and Speaker McCarthy had agreed to designate “senior new members” to continue negotiations, to whom Biden and McCarthy have given their “authority to make agreements in detail.”

“In fact, they met last night, and they are going to be meeting again today,” said Biden. “And I will be in constant contact with my team while I’m at the G-7. And I’ll be in close touch with Speaker McCarthy and other leaders as well.”

Following Tuesday’s meeting, McCarthy had also noted their negotiators’ ongoing talks and stated that an agreement could potentially be reached by the end of the week.

Though the debt ceiling has been raised cleanly, without any strings attached, in years past, House Republicans have proposed legislation that ties a short-term debt ceiling hike to decade-long spending cuts.

The bill, which passed in the House along partisan lines, includes cuts to veterans’ benefits and work requirements for Medicaid recipients. 

When asked by a reporter, Biden said Wednesday he would not accept any work requirements “that are going to impact on medical health needs of people.”

Meanwhile, Biden has canceled a trip to Australia following the G-7 for a Quad Summit between himself and the leaders of Australia, India and Japan. On Wednesday he said the four leaders would take time to meet in Japan during the G-7.

The federal government hit its $31.4 trillion debt limit on January 19, after which the U.S. Treasury undertook what Secretary Janet Yellen called temporary, “extraordinary measures” to prevent defaulting on the debt.

She has said  June 1 could be the day the government runs out of money.

“I made it clear—and I’ll say it again—America is not a deadbeat nation,” Biden said Wednesday. “We pay our bills. The nation has never defaulted on its debt and it never will. And we are going to continue these discussions with congressional leaders in the coming days until we reach an agreement, and I’ll have more to say about that on Sunday when I have a press conference on this issue.”

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