Biden says confident in reaching deal to avert default
President Joe Biden said Wednesday he was confident about reaching a deal with Republican leaders to avert a potentially catastrophic US debt default as early as June 1.
"I’m confident that we’ll get the agreement that we need on the budget and that America will not default," Biden said in brief remarks at the White House, shortly before departing for the G7 meeting of world leaders in Japan.
Biden and congressional leaders including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy have held two rounds of face-to-face talks to try and reach agreement on a deal to raise the US borrowing limit and allow the country to pay for its existing obligations.
The United States could begin defaulting on its debts "potentially as early as June 1," Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Monday, while the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has forecast June 15.
- McCarthy 'optimistic' -
Speaking on Wednesday, McCarthy said time was running out to find a deal.
"Our timeline is short," he told reporters on Capitol Hill, adding that Biden and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had "finally backed off the insane, irrational, unsensible idea that you just raise the debt ceiling.
"I'm optimistic about our ability to work together," he said, adding: "the only question of whether we have a Biden default is the president himself."
Republicans continue to insist Biden must agree to significant spending cuts in exchange for their support to raise the ceiling, ignoring repeated Democratic calls for a "clean" increase of the borrowing limit with no strings attached.
Democrats have accused Republicans of using extreme tactics to push their political agenda ahead of the so-called "X-date" at which the United States starts defaulting on its debts because the government has run out of money.
In a sign of growing nervousness over wthe prospect of default, more than 140 top US chief executives sent a letter to Biden and congressional leaders on Tuesday stressing the need for an agreement.
"We strongly urge that an accord be reached quickly so that the country can avert this potentially devastating scenario," the letter signed by the CEOs from Pfizer and Morgan Stanley, among others, said.
- 'We will not default' -
Biden confirmed Wednesday that he was cutting short a wider tour to the Asia-Pacific region which included a meeting with the Australian premier and a stop in Papua New Guinea, and planned to return to Washington Sunday for "final" debt ceiling negotiations.
But he insisted once more that failing to raise the debt ceiling was not an option.
"It would be catastrophic for the American economy and the American people if we didn't pay our bills," he said.
"The leaders have all agreed we will not default," he added.