Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Thursday signaled House Republicans could move forward on their own proposal to pair spending cuts and policy reforms with raising the debt ceiling if President Biden does not negotiate on the matter.
McCarthy said the House GOP conference is “very close” to agreement on the issue.
“If the president doesn’t act, we will,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy’s comments mark a shift in strategy for Republicans as Biden has declined repeated requests from the Speaker to sit down and negotiate on the debt ceiling.
Moving alone on a debt ceiling measure with the slim House majority would be tricky for House GOP leaders, who have said their 10-year budget resolution plan will be delayed.
Biden has called for a “clean” debt limit increase not tied to any concessions. This week, the president rejected a request from McCarthy to schedule another meeting on the debt limit, instead calling on Republicans to release their budget by the end of the week. Republicans have sought to separate their budget resolution from debt limit talks.
The ongoing stalemate with no meeting between McCarthy and Biden since Feb. 1 has put Republicans in a tough spot as they try to get Biden to the negotiating table.
In a Tuesday letter to Biden, McCarthy for the fist time laid out some areas where he would like to negotiate: Cutting nondefense discretionary spending, reclaiming unspent COVID-19 relief funding, strengthening work requirements for social safety net programs and creating policies to lower energy costs and secure the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of illegal drugs.
He sent Biden a letter asking for the White House to schedule a meeting on the debt limit by the end of the week.
McCarthy said that any debt ceiling legislation from the House GOP would be modeled on that letter.
The various ideological factions of the House GOP conference, including leaders of the hardline House Freedom Caucus and more pragmatic Main Street Caucus, have rallied behind McCarthy as he aims to drag Biden to the table.
But while McCarthy signaled that the House GOP could act alone on legislation, Republicans say that the ultimate goal — and their expectation — is that Biden will negotiate.
Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said that putting McCarthy’s letter into some form of legislation is “absolutely an option,” but not an ultimate end point.
“I’m not going to tell you all of our plan B, C, D,” Graves said. “We can pass something all day long, and the White House is not going to sign it. And so you know, in this case, we’ve got to have negotiation.”
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) also said he expects the president to eventually come to the table.
“The president’s going to negotiate. That’s going to happen. The only question is when,” Roy said.
McCarthy has said he is open for a meeting with Biden at any time.
“I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet,” McCarthy said.