September 24, 2023

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WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden and House Republicans stood apart on Tuesday in the Oval Office after an hour-long meeting on the debt ceiling that was attended by all four top congressional leaders.

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But attendees said they have made progress, including an agreement on Biden’s behalf to turn multilateral debt limit talks into direct one-to-one talks between a close aide of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and two White House aides.

“It doesn’t mean we’re going to reach an agreement,” McCarthy told reporters after the meeting, but added that “there is a better process now.”

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Biden told reporters that he is often tasked with addressing too many things at once, and he was confident that talks would move forward even after attending the G-7 summit.

Biden told reporters, “There is still work to be done, but I have made it clear to the speaker and others that we will talk regularly over the next several days and staff will continue to meet daily to make sure that we do not resolve the default.” Don’t.” meeting.

The White House said Biden “directed staff to continue meeting daily on pending issues. He said he would like to speak with the leaders by phone later this week and meet with them upon their return from abroad.”

“I think there was an overwhelming consensus in today’s meeting with congressional leaders that defaulting on the loan is not an option,” Biden told reporters.

The president said he is disappointed that congressional Republicans are unwilling to discuss “revenue raising” but that progress is being made.

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It was “a good and productive meeting,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Dn.Y., who said it was “more cordial” than the previous meeting last week.

“Having a bipartisan bill in both chambers is the only way … we’re going to avoid default,” Schumer said.

The White House also said Tuesday it would cancel the second leg of the president’s upcoming international trip because of the delicate state of debt ceiling talks.

Biden is currently scheduled to leave for Japan on Wednesday, where he will attend the G-7 summit. A source familiar with Biden’s travel plans told NBC News he will now return to the US on Sunday shortly after the meeting ends and will skip planned trips to Papua New Guinea and Australia.

His withdrawal would mark a significant stretch in efforts to avoid a first-ever default on US debt and avert huge economic damage.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Tuesday with McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jefferies, D-N.Y., Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. McCarthy said his side of the ongoing negotiations would be represented by his close aide in the House, Rep. Garrett Graves, R-La., and the White House would deploy Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. and Steve Ricchetti, one of Biden’s closest advisers in the West Wing.

In recent times, stricter work requirements for Social Safety Net programs have emerged as a potential area of ​​compromise.

Work restrictions for social programs are a key demand of House Republicans, who included them in a partisan debt limit bill that passed that chamber last month.

“The public wants it,” McCarthy said Tuesday, citing a recent ballot initiative in Wisconsin. “Both parties want it, the idea [Democrats] Wanting to put us in default because they won’t work with us is ridiculous to me.”

But the issue is also a red line for some progressive Democrats, a fact that could throw off the vote math of any debt limit deal that could pass the House.

Raising current work requirements for federal aid programs is “a non-starter for me,” Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat and member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said on MSNBC.

“It’s just cruel, especially when we’re seeing a slowing economy,” Khanna said. “I hope the president will stick to what he has said, that we pay off our debt and then we can negotiate the budget.”

Over the weekend, Biden answered a question about work requirements in the 1990s by pointing to his own Senate record of voting for welfare work requirements.

“I voted for the tougher assistance programs that are now in law, but for Medicaid it’s a different story,” Biden said Sunday in Rehoboth, Del. “And so I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is.”

A Republican bill passed last month included stricter work requirements not only for Medicaid, but also for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, funds, as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program food stamps.

The White House reiterated Tuesday that Biden would reject at least some of the proposed work requirements.

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White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden “would not accept proposals that would take away people’s health coverage.” However, she did not say that she would not accept changes to food stamps or temporary assistance programs.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.