President Joe Biden downplayed the possibility of a national default as well as Democratic opposition to work requirements being included in a debt ceiling deal with congressional Republicans.
“I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement on the budget and America will not default,” Biden told reporters Wednesday.
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During remarks added to his schedule at the last minute, Biden described this week’s meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and the rest of the congressional leadership as “civil,” “respectful,” and conducted in “good faith,” but was adamant he was not negotiating over raising the debt ceiling.
“To be clear, this negotiation is about the outlines of what the budget will look like, not about whether or not we’re going to, in fact, pay our debts,” he said. “Leaders all agree we will not default.”
Biden repeated he would be in “constant” contact with his negotiators, who met with McCarthy’s team last night, as he prepares to leave the country on a trip to Japan.
Despite Biden and McCarthy expressing optimism that a debt ceiling deal can be struck in the next week before a likely early June “X date,” when the Treasury Department projects it will no longer be able to pay the country’s bills, the two sides still disagree on nearly all of the issues on the negotiating table.
McCarthy, for instance, has indicated a debt ceiling deal should include work requirements for certain federal aid programs. Biden was pressed on the topic as he departed a Medal of Valor ceremony before his remarks.
“Do you have any work requirement red lines?” one reporter asked Biden.
“Yes. It depends on what they are,” the president replied.
During his remarks, Biden told reporters he is “not going to accept any work requirements that’s going to impact on medical health needs of people.
“I’m not going to accept any work requirements that go much beyond what is already,” he said. “I voted years ago for the work requirements that exist, but it’s possible there could be a few others, but not anything of any consequence.”
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Biden now heads to Japan for the Group of Seven leaders meeting but is expected back at the White House Sunday after canceling his trips to Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“America’s role in the world is vital, especially right now as we work together with other countries to support Ukraine and take on the challenges that demand international cooperation,” he said.