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U.S. House Speaker McCarthy to address debt ceiling ahead of Biden speech


U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talks to reporters after he met with U.S. President Joe Biden to discuss the federal debt limit and spending, at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2023. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Republican U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, locked in a standoff with Democratic President Joe Biden over raising the nation’s $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, plans to address the issue on Monday ahead of Biden’s annual State of Union address.

McCarthy, who has said he expects to meet with Biden a second time after sitting down with the president at the White House last week, plans to speak at 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) from his office in the House of Representatives.

The timing would allow him to get out in front of Biden on the debt ceiling, while reinforcing McCarthy’s role as the leading congressional negotiator in talks with the White House, according to a person familiar with the matter. His party holds a narrow majority.

House Republicans want to use the debt ceiling, which covers the costs of spending programs and tax cuts previously approved by Congress, as leverage to push spending cuts, after two years during which Biden’s Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate.

Biden is likely to address the debt ceiling, the U.S.-led pushback against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and his desire to overcome political divisions in the United States during his Tuesday night address to a joint session of Congress, which could give the president his largest television audience of the year.

Biden seemed to question McCarthy’s ability to keep Republicans in line last week, calling McCarthy “a decent man, I think,” but noting the concessions he made to become speaker in January. Those included changing a rule of the chamber to allow any member to call for a vote that would remove him.

Despite what appears to be a standoff, McCarthy emerged from a meeting with Biden last week saying he believed the two could find common ground.

A day later, McCarthy and Biden sat next to each other at the National Prayer Breakfast, and the speaker later told reporters that the president had agreed to meet again.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the White House had been in touch with McCarthy’s staff on next steps. She declined to say when the two would speak again.