Reaction to Biden-McCarthy debt ceiling meeting

U.S. Congressional leaders depart after debt limit talks with President Biden at the White House in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden and top Republican lawmakers met at the White House for less than an hour on Tuesday to break a deadlock over raising the $31.4 trillion U.S. debt limit, and both sides expressed hope about reaching a deal.

Failure to raise the federal debt limit by June 1, when the U.S. Treasury could run out of money to pay the government's bills, would result in a first-ever default that could trigger a devastating recession.

Biden, a Democrat, and top congressional Republicans have battled over the debt ceiling for months, with Biden asking lawmakers to raise the self-imposed borrowing limit without conditions and Republicans demanding sharp spending cuts to address a growing deficit.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

"We just finished another good, productive meeting with our congressional leadership about a path forward to make sure that America does not default on its debt for the first time."

"There's still work to do. And I made it clear to the Speaker and others, that we'll speak regularly over the next several days, and the staff's going to continue meeting daily to make sure that we do not default."

"I'm confident that we're going to continue to make progress toward avoiding default and fulfilling America's responsibility as a leader on the world stage."

"There was an overwhelming consensus, I think, in today's meeting with the congressional leaders, that defaulting on the debt is simply not an option. Our economy would fall into recession."

"It's disappointing that in our discussions, the congressional Republicans have not been willing to discuss raising revenues, but the policy differences between the parties should not stop Congress from avoiding default."

REPUBLICAN KEVIN MCCARTHY, SPEAKER, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

"We set the stage to carry on further conversations. We only have really 15 days to go. We've got to find a way that we can curb our spending, raise our debt limit and also grow our economy. The president agreed to appoint a couple of people from his administration to sit down and negotiate directly with my team."

"But we've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time."

"It is possible to get a deal by the end of the week. It's not that difficult to get to an agreement."

"What has changed in this meeting is, the president changed the scope of who's all negotiating. Instead of all the four leaders, he's finally taking Leader McConnell's advice ... Appoint somebody from the president's team who could work with the speaker's team to see if we could come to an agreement."

"Nothing has been resolved in this negotiation. So, the only thing that has changed is we finally have a format that has proven to work years in the past."

DEMOCRAT CHUCK SCHUMER, SENATE MAJORITY LEADER

"It was a good and productive meeting. Everyone agreed that default would be the worst outcome, a horrible situation for America and America's families. But we also agreed that we need to pass a bipartisan bill with bipartisan support in both chambers."

"We don't have much time, but default is just the worst, worst alternative, and having a bipartisan bill in both chambers is the only way, the only way we're going to avoid default."

"We have to come to common ground. That's the only way that this has ever gotten done. It has never gotten done with one party saying, you have to do it my way. You have to get both parties in both houses together."

"We'll have to come together on something that can avoid default. Default is a disaster. Full stop. And everyone understood that in the room."

MITCH McCONNELL, SENATE REPUBLICAN LEADER

"Seven of the last 10 debt ceilings have carried something else. What the Speaker and I are advocating here is not unusual. It's more common than not."

"This shouldn't be this hard. Number one, we know we're not going to default. They know it, we know it. We're running out of time."

"As the Speaker has pointed out, the president's agreed to designate somebody to be the lead, as I recommended to President Trump in 2019. We faced the same situation. You think he wanted to negotiate with Speaker Pelosi? Of course not. I said, 'You have no choice.'"

HAKEEM JEFFRIES, HOUSE DEMOCRATIC LEADER

"It was a positive meeting. I thank the president for once again convening us. It was an open and an honest, but a very cordial discussion. We all agreed that the only path forward is to reach a bipartisan agreement, anchored in common ground."

"We all agreed that default is not an acceptable option, and must be avoided. And we all agreed that over the next few weeks we have to proceed with the fierce urgency of now, in order to make sure we can reach that bipartisan, common-sense, common-ground agreement, so that we can protect the health, the safety and the economic well-being of the American people."

WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY KARINE JEAN-PIERRE

"President Biden will return to the United States on Sunday, following the completion of the G7 summit, in order to be back for meetings with congressional leaders to ensure that Congress takes action by the deadline to avert default."

"The president has made clear that members of Congress from both parties and chambers must come together to prevent default, as they have 78 times before. The president and his team will continue to work with Congressional leadership to deliver a budget agreement that can reach the president's desk."

NEIL BRADLEY, CHIEF POLICY OFFICER, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

"With just two weeks to go before hitting the debt limit, we are pleased to see the scope and structure of the negotiations narrow. We believe there is a path forward on a bipartisan deal that lifts the debt limit and makes important reforms to improve our nation's fiscal health."

"Both sides already agree that we must rescind unspent COVID funding, implement discretionary spending caps, and reform the federal permitting process."

"We urge the president and congressional leaders to consider these common goals as they continue to work towards an agreement to prevent economic crisis. It is impossible to overstate the sense of urgency and the negative consequences that would occur if the United States were to default on its debt."

(Reporting by Nandita Bose, David Morgan and Andrea Shalal, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)