Biden, McCarthy divided over debt ceiling but talks continue



U.S. President Joe Biden and top lawmakers agreed on Tuesday to further talks aimed at breaking a deadlock over raising the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt limit, with just three weeks before the country may be forced into an unprecedented default.

Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and three other top congressional leaders were set to meet again on Friday.

Biden called the talks "productive" and appeared to offer Republicans some possible compromises, including taking a "hard look" for the first time at clawing back unspent coronavirus relief funds to reduce government spending.

But he repeated that Republicans must take the threat of default off the table. And he did not rule out eventually invoking the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, an untested approach that would seek to declare the debt limit unconstitutional. Doing so would require litigation, he said, but is an option he may study in the future.

McCarthy emphasized a lack of progress after the meeting. "I didn't see any new movement," McCarthy told reporters, complaining that Biden didn't agree to talks until time was running out. "That's not a way to govern," he said.

But he did say Biden indicated that he was open to discussing reforms to the permitting process for new energy projects as part of the talks.

Biden also indicated he could cancel a trip to Japan to attend the Group of Seven (G7) summit later this month if the debt ceiling issue was not resolved.

"If somehow we got down to the wire and we still hadn't resolved this, and the due date was a matter of when I was supposed to be away, I would not go, I would stay until this gets finished," Biden was quoted as saying.