WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden will release his proposed budget on March 9, the White House said on Tuesday, setting a deadline before his meeting with the Republican House speaker on Wednesday to discuss the nation’s spending.
Biden will ask Kevin McCarthy to release a budget plan in the meeting, and to pledge to meet the nation’s debt obligations, according to a White House memo seen by Reuters.
McCarthy and his fellow conservatives, who narrowly won control of the House of Representatives in November, are threatening to block a regular increase of the nation’s debt limit unless Biden pledges lower spending. Biden has said any negotiation on previously approved U.S. spending, which is generally approved on a bipartisan basis, was a non-starter.
Republicans have not yet agreed on how fiscal spending should be trimmed, or firmed up the parameters of a 2023 budget.
The White House has seized on the lack of consensus to highlight fringe proposals from some Republicans, including one that abolishes the Internal Revenue Service in favor of a higher sales tax and one that trims Social Security retirement benefits.
Asked what his message will be for McCarthy, Biden told reporters on Monday: “Show me your budget, I’ll show you mine.”
McCarthy responded with an admonition to Biden to not rule out negotiations before their White House meeting.
“The first thing they should do, especially as the president of the United States: say he’s willing to sit down and find a common ground and negotiate together,” McCarthy said on Tuesday.
While the president can propose a budget plan, both houses of Congress must pass any spending legislation. Biden’s fellow Democrats narrowly control the Senate, where spending bills need 60 votes to pass. The House needs a simple majority to pass these bills; McCarthy has ruled out cuts to Social Security and Medicare, the two largest benefit programs.
The showdown over the growing U.S. debt threatens to roil the global economy if the United States defaults. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the country may reach its debt limit as soon as June and has called on Congress to take swift action.
The Treasury Department has already started taking “extraordinary measures” to stave off a default until summer after hitting the U.S. government’s $31.4 trillion borrowing limit earlier in January.
On Wednesday, Biden plans to ask McCarthy if he will “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations” and if he agrees “that it is critical to avoid debt brinksmanship.”
(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt, David Morgan, Nandita Bose; writing by Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)