House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Friday said he is willing to meet with President Joe Biden to discuss legislation to raise America’s statutory debt ceiling, just one day after the US Treasury began enacting “extraordinary measures” meant to avoid a catastrophic default on the country’s sovereign debt.
Writing on Twitter, Mr McCarthy wrote: “President Biden: I accept your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending. I look forward to our meeting”.
The Speaker’s statement appeared to be a response to remarks in which the president said he would have a discussion with him about raising the debt ceiling, and comes just days after Mr Biden slammed House Republicans as “fiscally demented,” citing GOP demands for spending cuts in exchange for Congress allowing the federal government to continue paying its’ debts.
Many of the most extreme members of the House Republican Conference have demanded that Mr McCarthy hold the government’s ability to pay its’ bills hostage in order to extract concessions from Mr Biden and his administration.
The debt limit dates back to a First World War era statute authorising the Treasury Department to issue bonds up to a limit that has been steadily increased over the last 100 years as needed, but House Republicans seized on the matter beginning in the 1990s as a way to force Democratic presidents to cut programs that have already been fully authorised and funded by Congress.
The debt ceiling has nothing to do with authorising new spending, it instead sets an upper limit on issuing the bonds required for the government to pay for spending that has already taken place.