Biden and McCarthy Meet to Discuss Debt Limit as Both Sides Trade Barbs

“Any deviations from that path would be highly risky” for the economy, he added.

The Treasury Department is employing a range of “extraordinary measures” to ensure that the United States can continue paying its bills, including interest payments to creditors. But at some point, the country will need to borrow more money to finance its obligations. The nation runs a budget deficit, which means it spends more than it earns, and it borrows huge sums of money to pay everything from military salaries to Social Security benefits.

Economists have widely warned of economic catastrophe if lawmakers do not raise the limit before the government loses the ability to pay all its bills at once, which could happen as soon as June. If the United States cannot borrow more money, it would not be able to make good on a range of financial obligations, including paying bondholders, plunging the nation into default.

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Republicans are seeking to use the threat of those consequences to force Mr. Biden into a debate over taxes, spending, debt and the size of the federal government.

Both sides have sought to frame the discussion in favorable terms. Republicans have assailed Democrats for runaway spending, pointing to the stimulus package that Mr. Biden signed into law. They blame that spending for fueling rapid inflation last year, though price increases have since eased. Republican lawmakers say current federal debt levels are unsustainable and risk undercutting economic growth.

Mr. Biden has said frequently that he is willing to reduce deficits by raising taxes on high earners and corporations — moves Republicans oppose. The president and his aides have tried to push Republicans into detailing specific parts of the federal budget they want to cut, betting on a voter backlash to any proposals that touch popular programs like government health care, education and retirement spending.

“Any serious conversation about economic and fiscal policy needs to start with a clear understanding of the participants’ goals and proposals,” Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a memo on Tuesday.

But both centrist Republicans and Democrats indicated on Wednesday that they would give Mr. Biden’s strategy no political cover, insisting that the president sit down and negotiate with Mr. McCarthy in good faith.

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