Biden Says Debt Ceiling Talks Are Moving Along—But ‘We’re Not There Yet’


US President Joe Biden makes his way to board Air Force One before departing from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on May 13, 2023. Biden is heading to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to spend the weekend at his beach house. Credit - Photo by Mandel Ngan–AFP via Getty Images

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, MD—President Joe Biden said that talks with Congress on raising the U.S. government’s debt limit are moving along, but more will be known about their progress in the next few days.

“We’ve not reached the crunch point yet but there’s real discussion about some changes we all could make,” Biden told reporters Saturday before boarding Air Force One en route to Rehoboth Beach, Del. “But we’re not there yet.”

The President is expected to meet with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and other congressional leaders early next week to resume negotiations on the debt limit, after both sides had canceled a planned meeting on Friday to let staff continue discussions over the weekend.

The President did not respond to shouted questions about his upcoming meeting with Republican leadership, but told reporters that “we’ll know more in the next two days.”

“We’re moving along, it’s hard to tell,” he added.

Congressional staff and administration officials met for about two hours on Thursday to discuss a potential agreement, with lawmakers eyeing a deal that would both raise the debt limit and enact new limits on federal spending. Spending cuts could include permitting reform to spur energy production and rescinding unused COVID-19 aid money, though some lawmakers have been pushing back on the potential compromise.

On Thursday, McCarthy told reporters that he believed staff negotiators needed to continue to talk before the congressional leaders met with Biden again. “President Biden and Senator Schumer are stuck on no. They have no plan, no proposed savings and no clue,” he said. “Apparently, President Biden doesn’t want a deal, he wants a default.”

The Speaker has maintained that he wants to attach spending reductions to a debt ceiling increase, while Biden has insisted that he would not negotiate over the debt limit, calling on Congress to pass a clean increase before addressing a framework for spending.

But pressure is mounting on the two sides to find consensus and break the months-long stalemate. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said the U.S. could default on its debt for the first time in history as soon as June 1 without an agreement, a scenario that would be economically devastating and could plunge the global economy into a financial crisis.

When asked by TIME whether a deal would be made before June 1, Biden smiled and responded: “Has to be.”