McCarthy calls a government shutdown meeting with Biden ‘important’


WASHINGTON — Speaker Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday he thinks it’d be “very important” to have a meeting with President Joe Biden to avert a government shutdown and emphasize the need to pass the GOP’s border security package.

“Why don’t we just cut a deal with the president?” McCarthy, R-Calif., asked reporters who questioned why he’s not willing to strike a deal with congressional Democrats this week on a short-term funding bill to keep the government open.

McCarthy suggested that Biden could solve the crisis at the southern border — a major sticking point for Republicans in shutdown talks — unilaterally.

“Listen, the president, all he has to do … it’s only actions that he has to take. He can do it like that. He changed all the policies on the border. He can change those,” McCarthy said. “We can keep government open and finish out the work that we have done.”

We’d like to hear from you about how you’re preparing for a possible government shutdown, whether you might be out of work or feel the effects of shuttered services. Please contact us at [email protected] or reach out to us here.

Asked specifically if he was requesting a meeting with Biden, McCarthy replied: “I think it would be very important to have a meeting with the president to solve that issue.”

McCarthy and Biden did meet earlier this year as they negotiated over the debt ceiling and came to an agreement on top-line spending numbers that were meant to make the government funding process easier. But not long after striking that agreement, and amid spending complaints from conservatives, McCarthy agreed to ignore the deal with Biden and try to pass bills at a lower level.

“I need to be very clear, it’s up to the speaker to twist in the wind. I mean, seriously … a deal is a deal,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Air Force One. “The president made a deal with the speaker and a bipartisan deal that was voted by two-thirds of House Republicans back in June.”

Responding to McCarthy’s demands on border security, the White House pointed to Biden’s request last week for a $4 billion supplemental for the Department of Homeland Security to “safely and humanely manage the Southwest Border.”

White House officials also argue that the GOP’s CR would dramatically cut border funding, resulting in 800 fewer Customs and Border Protection agents and officers. A shutdown, officials said, would mean tens of thousands of DHS law enforcement workers would be unpaid.

“So, we would love to do this in a bipartisan way, but we’re not seeing that,” Jean-Pierre said last week. “What we’re seeing from House Republicans is wanting to defund” the Department of Homeland Security.

McCarthy’s latest remarks come as House Republicans have struggled to coalesce behind a strategy to avert a far-reaching government shutdown slated for midnight Saturday that could potentially furlough millions of federal workers and affect federal benefits for millions of other Americans.

House conservatives are demanding that steep spending cuts be tied to any appropriations bills or short-term funding deal that moves through Congress. And, in recent days, McCarthy has attempted to make the shutdown showdown about the GOP’s border security measure, known as H.R. 2. In addition to normal funding bills, McCarthy said he will try this week to pass a short-term funding bill, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, that would include the Secure the Border Act (minus E-Verify provisions) and keep the government open temporarily while talks continue.

Those GOP bills would be dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“The president is the highest elected person in the nation. The president is the one person that is determining the current policy that we have on the border. The House has passed a bill to deal with it; the Senate has done nothing with it,” McCarthy told reporters.

“The president can really come down to this and make sure the government stays open. All he has to do, take some action on the border to secure it so those border agents don’t come back bloody, so there’s not trains of people just running in, so the fentanyl doesn’t keep filling our schools and killing our children.”

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