President Biden and Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are scheduled to meet this week amid a standoff over the debt ceiling.
The highly anticipated meeting — scheduled for Wednesday at the White House — comes nearly two weeks after the U.S. hit its debt ceiling, starting the clock for Congress to take action or allow the country to default on its loans.
The GOP-led House this week is slated to vote on a series of pandemic-related bills — including one that seeks to end the public health emergency declared for the coronavirus — in addition to a resolution condemning socialism. Two committees are also set to hold hearings on the border and pandemic-relief funds.
On the Senate side, a roll-call vote is scheduled for Monday evening. The chamber is still waiting for leaders to strike a deal on an organizing resolution, which will establish committee ratios and rules for the new Congress.
Biden, McCarthy meet on debt ceiling
Biden and McCarthy will meet face-to-face at the White House Wednesday, coming together for a discussion as debt ceiling talks heat up on Capitol Hill.
The White House earlier this month signaled that Biden would sit down with the Speaker early this year, but did not disclose a date. On Sunday, both parties announced that the gathering would happen this week.
“We’re going to meet this Wednesday,” McCarthy told CBS’s “Face the Nation” during an interview. “I know the president said he didn’t want to have any discussions, but I think it’s very important that our whole government is designed to find compromise. I want to find a reasonable and a responsible way that we can lift the debt ceiling, but take control of this runaway spending.”
Shortly after, the White House confirmed the meeting.
“President Biden will host Speaker McCarthy at the White House on Wednesday for a discussion on a range of issues, part of a series of meetings with Congressional leaders at the start of this new Congress,” a White House spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.
The meeting comes as both dig in their heels over the debt ceiling.
The White House has said it wants a clean increase in the borrowing limit — without using the must-pass measure as a means for negotiations — while some conservative House Republicans are pushing for spending cuts.
Top Republicans have not proposed a concrete way to cut spending, but McCarthy on Sunday offered some details on what a potential plan could look like. He told “Face the Nation” that cuts to Medicare and Social Security are “off the table,” but did not rule out potential reductions in defense spending.
“I want to make sure we’re protected in our defense spending, but I want to make sure it’s effective and efficient,” McCarthy said when asked about the area of funding. “I want to look at every single dollar we’re spending, no matter where it’s being spent. I want to eliminate waste wherever it is.”
“I want to look at every single department. Where can we become more efficient, more effective, and more accountable?” he added.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen earlier this month said “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default would last through June 5, leaving Congress a few months to come to a consensus on how to prevent potential economic catastrophe.
The White House spokesperson said Biden on Wednesday will press McCarthy on if he plans to do just that.
“The President will ask Speaker McCarthy if he intends to meet his Constitutional obligation to prevent a national default, as every other House and Senate leader in U.S. history has done, and as Leaders McConnell, Schumer, and Jeffries have pledged to do. He will underscore that the economic security of all Americans cannot be held hostage to force unpopular cuts on working families,” the spokesperson said.
House takes up pandemic-related bills, socialism resolution
The House this week is slated to consider a number of pandemic-related bills as the Republican majority looks to scale back some COVID-19 precautions.
On the list is the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, which seeks to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for some health care workers employed at facilities that take part in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It comes after Republicans successfully added language into the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill that eliminated the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
The House is also scheduled to vote on the Pandemic is Over Act, which would declare the public health emergency for the COVID-19 pandemic over, in addition to a resolution that would end the COVID-19 national emergency.
The measures are set to hit the floor less than one month after the Department of Health and Human Services renewed the public health emergency for the twelfth time since it was first declared in January 2020. Each renewal lasts for 90 days.
The Senate made attempts at ending the emergency declaration in the last Congress, passing legislation that failed to move in the House. According to The Wall Street Journal, Congress has the power to request votes on whether to end the emergency.
When describing the bill, the office of House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) pointed to Biden’s comments in November that said “the pandemic is over.” The president later clarified his remarks, saying “it basically is not where it was.”
Also on the list of legislation this week is the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act, which zeroes in on telework policies. The bill would force agencies to revert to telework policies that were in place before the pandemic, and prevent them from expanding the practices until they draw up a plan for how telework and remote work will be used in the future.
The measure also directs executive agencies to submit a study to Congress on the effects telework and remote work has had.
Aside from the pandemic-related bills, the House this week is set to vote on a resolution introduced by Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) “denouncing the horrors of socialism.”
House Judiciary, Oversight hold hearings
The Republican-led House Oversight and Accountability and Judiciary committees are set to hold their first hearings of the new Congress this week, setting their sights on the border and pandemic fraud.
The Judiciary Committee — led by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — will hold a hearing on the “Biden Border Crisis” on Wednesday. It is the first hearing that will focus on the Biden administration since Republicans took control of the House.
“Ready to get to work,” Jordan wrote on Twitter after the hearing was announced.
Also on Wednesday, the Oversight and Accountability Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing — titled “Federal Pandemic Spending: A Prescription for Waste, Fraud, and Abuse” — on funds that were appropriated during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Michael Horowitz, the chair of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee; Gene Dodaro, the comptroller general and head of the Government Accountability Office; and David M. Smith, the assistant director of the Secret Service’s Office of Investigations, are all slated to appear as witnesses.
“We owe it to Americans to identify how hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars spent under the guise of pandemic relief were lost to waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement,” Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the chair of the committee, wrote in a statement on Friday.
“Under Republican leadership, the Oversight Committee is returning to its primary duty to root out waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in the federal government and hold President Biden accountable,” he added.
Alex Bolton contributed.