Feb 2, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Biden says he and McCarthy will "treat each other with respect"

President Joe Biden (R) sits next to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) during the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol.

President Biden sits next to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy during the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

President Biden on Thursday said he and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) would treat each other with respect, after both elected officials agreed yesterday to continue discussions about the debt ceiling.

The big picture: Biden has previously made clear he thinks McCarthy needs to prove he can get House Republicans to back a deal — and show he can pass a budget — before serious talks on any spending cuts Republicans want.

Driving the news: Biden's remarks came during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., where he was seated beside McCarthy. The president reiterated he and the California Republican had a "good meeting" Wednesday.

  • McCarthy told reporters after Wednesday's meeting that the House would not pass a "clean" debt ceiling with no strings attached, but added, "I think that at the end of the day, we can find common ground." The House speaker during a news conference Thursday also confirmed the two will have another meeting.
  • Biden emphasized his middle-of-the-road tone during his comments Thursday, saying, "doesn't mean we've got to agree." He added: "Fight like hell. But let's treat each other with respect."

Between the lines: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned of a "catastrophe" and a financial crisis if the U.S. doesn't raise the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling by early June.

Flashback: Democrats are scarred by their 2011 debt ceiling brinkmanship, when credit agencies downgraded the U.S. rating and financial markets stared into a potential abyss.

  • Then-Vice President Biden was among the lead White House negotiators, leading to a deal that raised the debt ceiling while imposing spending cuts.
  • Democrats felt burned by the experience. In subsequent showdowns, then-President Obama refused to negotiate over raising the debt ceiling. Biden now has adopted a similar position.

Of note: The National Prayer Breakfast was held at the Capitol Visitor Center, where the auditorium was packed with hundreds of members of Congress and other guests.

Editor's note: Axios' Hans Nichols contributed to this report.

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