5 min read

McCarthy rules out potential compromise

What Kevin McCarthy told me when I asked him about a possible debt ceiling off-ramp.
McCarthy rules out potential compromise
(Gabe Fleisher / Wake Up To Politics)

Good morning! It’s Thursday, February 2, 2023. The 2024 elections are 642 days away.

Yesterday, I was outside the West Wing as Speaker McCarthy exited his long-awaited debt ceiling meeting with President Biden. I managed to get a question in to the speaker: here’s what I asked, and how McCarthy answered...

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McCarthy dismisses proposed debt ceiling off-ramp

There are not many ways for the debt ceiling logjam to end. None of the more gimmicky solutions seem workable: the White House has ruled out taking any of the unilateral actions theoretically available to them; it might already be too late for a discharge petition to force something onto the House floor.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy refuses to accept a “clean” debt ceiling bill, while President Joe Biden refuses to swallow one that contains spending cuts. In the end, they will have to meet somewhere in the middle, or else the U.S. will be plunged into a historic — and economically ruinous — default.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mitt Romney (R-UT), two of Washington’s most experienced dealmakers, have stepped into this breach and offered one of the few bipartisan compromises currently on the table: raising the debt ceiling in exchange for the creation of a commission, or perhaps several, to study federal spending, the long-term health of the nation’s social safety net, and possible areas for reforms.

The deal is similar to the one struck by then-Vice President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell during the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, which involved a bipartisan deficit reduction committee (known as the “Supercommittee”).

Manchin discussed the proposal with McCarthy last month; Politico reported before the speaker met with Biden on Wednesday that the idea was being floated around the White House as a possible route out of this whole mess.

But after leaving the Oval Office, McCarthy told me that he had no interest in the commission compromise.

“I don’t need a commission to tell me where there’s waste, fraud, and abuse,” McCarthy said. “I don’t need a commission to tell us we’re $31 trillion in debt. Nobody needs a commission...to tell us we have spent too much.”

Instead, McCarthy expressed confidence that “we can sit down and solve this problem” over the next five months. “Hopefully it doesn’t take that long,” he added.

There goes another possible off-ramp. Watch my full exchange with McCarthy here:


Other highlights from McCarthy’s gaggle with reporters:

  • The speaker said he and Biden had a “good first meeting” and, although no deal had been struck, they agreed to “continue the conversation.”
  • McCarthy once again declined to outline the spending cuts he was requesting from Biden, saying he would not negotiate in the media. “He gave me his perspective. I gave him my perspective,” he said only.
  • Notably, when asked directly, the speaker did not offer a commitment that U.S. would not default on its debt. He appeared confident that a deal could be reached, however: “I think at the end of the day, we can find common ground.”

In their own readout, the White House described the meeting as a “frank and straightforward dialogue.”

The White House also repeated that raising the debt ceiling “is not negotiable or conditional” — although a 90-minute meeting with Biden that certainly seemed to be a negotiating session, McCarthy seemed to signal that the president had moved from that initial position.

More news you should know.

Ron DeSantis is already scaring off potential presidential competitors. (Gage Skidmore)

Campaign 2024.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis scored a victory against the College Board. The organization released the revised framework for its Advanced Placement course in African American Studies on Wednesday, making several changes that DeSantis had demanded.

  • More details: Proposed sections of the course on queer studies, reparations, and the Black Lives Matter movement were removed from the framework. DeSantis had threatened to ban the course in Florida if those sections were still included.
  • Analysis: DeSantis, who has also brawled with Disney, the NHL, and other cultural institutions, is increasingly setting the pace for the GOP field when it comes to the culture wars. Per Politico, many Republicans are being scared out of the 2024 race by DeSantis’ formidable polling.

Classified documents.

President Biden’s Delaware beach house was searched by the FBI on Wednesday. No new classified documents were found, according to Biden’s lawyer. The search lasted less than four hours.

  • Context: It is the third Biden property known to have been searched by the FBI since it was revealed that the president still had Obama-era classified documents in his possession.

Race for the Senate.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi endorsed Rep. Adam Schiff in the 2024 California Senate race this morning. Pelosi’s nod — which was accompanied by endorsements from other 14 House Democrats from California — also serves as a not-so-subtle message to 88-year-old incumbent Dianne Feinstein, who has still not said she will retire.

  • Context: As I’ve noted previously, the California contest will be one of the marquee battles of 2024, with Schiff poised to face off against at least two other high-profile Democrats in the state’s House delegation: Katie Porter and Barbara Lee.

What to watch for in Washington today.

Ilhan Omar is about to be removed from a key committee. (Gage Skidmore)

President Biden will discuss police reform with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. He will also receive his daily intelligence briefing, deliver remarks at the annual National Prayer Breakfast, have lunch with King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Hussein of Jordan, and deliver remarks at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

The House will vote on a resolution “denouncing the horrors of socialism.” The chamber will also hold a final vote on the resolution removing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which is expected to pass after initial skepticism from some GOP members.

The Senate will vote to confirm a nominee: Joseph Falk to be a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

👍 Thanks for reading.

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— Gabe