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Biden Demands Details on Budget Cuts From McCarthy

Ahead of a meeting at the White House on Wednesday, administration officials demanded that Republicans commit to avoiding a default on federal debt.

WASHINGTON — President Biden will ask Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, on Wednesday for details on what budget cuts his party is demanding in order to raise the federal debt limit and for assurances that Mr. McCarthy will not accept an economically debilitating government default, White House officials said.

The demands, outlined in a memo that the White House released on Tuesday, are an attempt by Mr. Biden to force Republicans to engage in a debate over taxes, spending and debt on terms that are more favorable to the president than to newly empowered conservatives on Capitol Hill.

Mr. Biden is seeking to force Mr. McCarthy to specify which programs he would cut — a list that most likely includes some spending that is popular with the public — and to calculate how much Republicans would add to the debt with additional tax cuts.

In the memo, Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, and Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the president would release his annual budget on March 9 and asked when Mr. McCarthy would do the same.

“It is essential that Speaker McCarthy likewise commit to releasing a budget, so that the American people can see how House Republicans plan to reduce the deficit — whether through Social Security cuts; cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Affordable Care Act health coverage; and/or cuts to research, education and public safety — as well as how much their budget will add to the deficit with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and large corporations,” Ms. Young and Mr. Deese wrote.

Mr. McCarthy responded to the memo in a tweet on Tuesday, saying “I received your staff’s memo. I’m not interested in political games. I’m coming to negotiate for the American people.”

Mr. Biden is set to meet with Mr. McCarthy at the White House on Wednesday, their first meeting since Republicans took control of the House. Administration officials have said the discussion will touch on a wide range of topics, but its principle backdrop is the threat by the House speaker and his caucus not to increase the debt limit unless Mr. Biden agrees to steep cuts in federal spending.

The president has said repeatedly he will not negotiate over raising the limit, which the government reached this month. Economists warn that the country could experience financial crisis and recession if lawmakers do not raise it before the government runs out of its ability to pay its bill

But Republicans so far have not listed specific demands for raising the limit or released an official budget. Mr. McCarthy and other top Republicans have preferred to frame the debate in more general terms, accusing Democrats and Mr. Biden of out-of-control spending.

“I know the president said he didn’t want to have any discussions, but I think it’s very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise,” Mr. McCarthy told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling, but take control of this runaway spending.”

At a news conference on Tuesday, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, suggested that House Republicans would outline their budget priorities in April and criticized Mr. Biden’s stance.

“President Biden said, ‘Just give me more money,’” Mr. Scalise said. “He just wants to spend more money; said he wouldn’t even have a conversation with Speaker McCarthy. That’s an untenable position.”

In the memo, Mr. Deese and Ms. Young said Mr. Biden would demand that Mr. McCarthy “commit to the bedrock principle that the United States will never default on its financial obligations.” They also took aim at some early proposals in the House that would add to the nation’s $31 trillion debt, including a bill passed this month that seeks to undercut an initiative Mr. Biden championed for the Internal Revenue Service to crack down on wealthy tax cheats.

Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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