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Biden, Congress Continue Debt Limit Talks

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, listens as President Joe Biden speaks about the debt limit in the Oval Office, May 9, 2023, in Washington.

REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE - President Joe Biden and congressional leaders will likely resume talks on Tuesday at the White House over the debt limit as the nation continues to edge closer to its legal borrowing authority with no agreement in sight.

Administration and congressional officials said Sunday that a meeting has not been finalized, although Tuesday was the likeliest option. Biden was returning to Washington on Monday and is scheduled to leave for the Group of Seven summit in Japan on Wednesday.

The meeting was initially supposed to be Friday, but was aburptly postponed so staff-level talks could continue before Biden and the four congressional leaders huddled for a second time.

"I remain optimistic because I’m a congenital optimist," Biden told reporters while out for a bike ride in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. "But I really think there’s a desire on their part as well as ours to reach an agreement. I think we’ll be able to do it.”

“We’ve not reached the crunch point yet,” Biden told reporters Saturday before flying to his beach home. “There’s real discussion about some changes we all could make. We’re not there yet.”

Biden did signal over the weekend that he could be open to tougher work requirements for certain government aid programs, which Republicans are proposing as part of the ongoing discussion. He has said he will not accept anything that takes away people’s health care coverage.

“I voted for tougher aid programs that’s in the law now, but for Medicaid it’s a different story,” he said. “And so I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is.”

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has insisted on using the threat of defaulting on the nation’s debts to wrangle spending changes, arguing that the federal government can’t continue to spend money at the pace it is now. The national debt now stands at $31.4 trillion.

An increase in the debt limit would not authorize new federal spending. It would only allow for borrowing to pay for what Congress has already approved.

The Treasury Department has said the government could exhaust the ability to pay its bills as early as June 1. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office gave a similar warning Friday, saying there was a “significant risk” of default sometime in the first two weeks of next month.