Biden hails ‘progress’ on debt talks as nation ticks closer to default

President Biden on Thursday gave a brief update on the debt-ceiling talks with House Republicans, saying negotiators are “making progress” and reiterating that both sides agree default is not an option.

Speaking at a Rose Garden event to mark the nomination of Gen. Charles Q. Brown to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mr. Biden said he’s had several “productive” conversations with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, California Republican.

“The American people deserve to know that their Social Security payments will be there, the Veterans hospitals will remain open, and that economic progress will be made,” Mr. Biden said. “Default puts all that at risk. Congressional leaders understand that they’ve all agreed there will be no default.”

Despite Mr. Biden’s optimism, both sides remain deeply divided about how to lower the nation’s debt. The White House says that the wealthy and American corporations should pay more taxes, while Mr. McCarthy and Republicans are demanding spending cuts.

“Speaker McCarthy and I have a very different view of who should bear the burden of additional efforts to get our fiscal house in order. I don’t believe the whole burden should fall on the backs of the middle-class and working-class Americans. My House Republican friends disagree,” he said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that the federal government could no longer have enough money to pay all of its bills as soon as June 1, which would cause a default. If that happens, it could cause economic chaos around the globe and push borrowing costs higher.

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Both sides still disagree about the spending cuts, even as negotiators work long days to reach a deal and stave off financial insolvency.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre called the talks “incredibly tough.”

“Both sides have to understand that they’re not going to get everything that they want,” she said at the daily press briefing. “And what we’re trying to get to is a budget that is reasonable, that is bipartisan, that Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate will be able to vote on and agree on.”

If Mr. Biden and Mr. McCarthy reach a deal, they still need to sell it to their party’s lawmakers. That could take a week or longer before it clears both the House and Senate, which both need to approve the bill before the president can sign it into law.