May 23, 2023

Speaker McCarthy’s Press Conference Following Meeting at White House Transcript

Speaker McCarthy's Press Conference Following Meeting at White House Transcript
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Speaker McCarthy’s Press Conference Following Meeting at White House. Read the transcript here.

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

Welcome back.

Speaker 2 (00:00):

Welcome back.

Kevin McCarthy (00:03):

Welcome back. So we just came back from the White House. I thought the meeting was productive. I thought it was more productive than the other meetings we’ve had, but we still have differences. We left the meeting with directing the members and the staff to get back together, work through the night, knowing where some of our differences lie, see if there’s other ideas of where we could work through. But I’ve been very clear ever since February 1st. I mean here we are, June 1st being the deadline, this is not how government should work. This is not how the Republicans wanted to work. When I got elected speaker, as early as January 15, I requested a meeting with the president regarding debt ceiling. We all knew this day was going to come, we thought it’d come later. And I sat with him on February 1st saying, “Let’s work through this together. Let’s find where we can find common ground, that we can curve the amount of spending, make our economy stronger, curve inflation and make us less dependent upon China.”

But he told me for 97 days they wouldn’t meet with us. That’s really why we’re where we are today. The House Republicans, they took action, the Senate never did anything, and that also made it much more difficult because you would’ve had two bills that you could conference together. We’ve been working, as you know, day in and day out trying to get to an agreement. I’ve been very clear with the president from day one, we’re not going to raise taxes. We’ve got more revenue coming in to government in a 50-year average than any other time in the history. Only two other times do we have this higher percentage. But the problem is we’re spending more than almost any time in modern history. So it’s a spending problem. We should pull back money that’s been wasted. We should help people get jobs by having work requirements. We’ve seen that work time and again. We should find ways that we cap the amount of spending going outlay because the Democrats had spent so much. Even Joe Manchin had thought of that idea of a 1% cap going forward.

I think there’s a lot of productive ideas that we have out there and I think we can at the end of the day come to a common ground agreement. And so let me bring up Chairman McHenry who’s been in these meetings all the way through and he’s going to have more meetings. And I can’t say enough about the staff from the White House down to the OMB director [inaudible 00:02:16] that they’re principal, they’re smart, they’re intelligent and they’re very professional in all these negotiations. Patrick.

Patrick McHenry (02:26):

Look, I would describe, as the speaker said, that the meeting was reasonably productive. To have both the president and the speaker in the same room with both negotiating teams was a great level setting exercise with the president back in the country, it was productive to have everyone on the same page of the challenges that we have to coming to terms with the deal. What I sense from the White House is a lack of urgency. I’m Chair of the Financial Services Committee, I’m worried about the impacts on the markets. I think to play brinkmanship is not wise when it comes to where we are with the banking system, with the economy. And I think we should have a sense of urgency from the White House team. That was not evident in this meeting. The fact is with every debt ceiling, we take stock of our spending. When Democrats control the House and the Senate with the Republican president, they use that opportunity to raise spending.

The speakers made clear to his negotiating team, Congressman Graves and I, that it was very important that we spend less money next year than we’re spending this year. That was imperative to us, to go in the room and make sure we protect the house position on our debt ceiling bill and to negotiate the most conservative terms we possibly can, but one that can pass the Senate be signed by a Democrat president who’s increased spending dramatically in his first two years in office. It’s a tough challenge. It’s a very tough challenge to deal with all the equities at stake. But we have reasonable people in the room that are trying to come to these terms. And I think that is the hopeful sign. But it is a very challenging situation we currently are in and without a lack of urgency, it’s very difficult to deal with the most challenging issues.

Speaker 5 (04:17):

What do you mean? Explain what you mean by lack of urgency? I mean you’ve been meeting now for a couple of weeks or however long. I mean could you describe what you see as a lack of urgency?

Patrick McHenry (04:26):

Well we have the present back in town from the G7. I had an expectation personally of walking into the room and hearing the president, the speaker being aligned that we need to come to terms quickly given how long it takes to get anything through the house and through the Senate, especially with the deadline looming. I just didn’t sense that from the president. I’ve heard that from the speaker since February 1st when he met with the president, “Let’s work through this, we don’t need brinkmanship.” And he’s been clear with me as well. We don’t need brinkmanship here. And I think this is a moment where cooler heads need to prevail and we need to come to terms and do so as rapidly as we possibly can.

Kevin McCarthy (05:10):

My whole goal here was always from the beginning, we want to be responsible. Being responsible would’ve negotiated this months ago like we wanted to, being reasonable that we’d find common ground, being sensible that we spend too much money. Unfortunately, we are where we are today, but thankfully the Republicans have passed the bill, so they’re strong. Yes?

Speaker 6 (05:28):

So you’re all saying that you all are now less confident that we have the bill by year this week.

Kevin McCarthy (05:33):

Look, we know where the deadline is, that’s why we passed the bill sooner. I believe we’re going to let the teams work tonight, see if we could get progress, but we didn’t. Productive but not progress.

Speaker 7 (05:45):

Mr. Speaker, as you get closer to this deadline, if you still don’t have a deal, is there any scenario where you would do a clean up or down increase on the debt limit?

Kevin McCarthy (05:56):

A clean debt ceiling? No. No.

Speaker 7 (05:56):

But if you’re May 31st-

Kevin McCarthy (05:59):

No, let me be clear. No, we’re never putting a clean debt ceiling on the floor. You want to know why? It’s like having a child, giving them a credit card, and every single time they hit the limit, you just raised it to now you owe more money on the credit card than you make in an entire year, because that’s what we have as Americans, that we owe more than our entire economy is. So when are you going to change the direction? We’ve passed the bill. We have the ability to do this. You don’t have to worry because we have a bill over on the Senate side that they can pass that it raises the debt ceiling. We can get this job done now. I don’t think it’s productive for anybody to keep kicking the can down the road. And let me just tell you, for every new American that’s so excited, that was blessed today by having a new child, by kicking that can down the road, that child got a $94,000 bill today and they’ve only been alive one day. That is wrong and that has got to stop.

Speaker 8 (06:57):

Mr. McCarthy, is an increase to defense veterans and Department of Homeland Security border security still a demand for you?

Kevin McCarthy (07:06):

Look, all I’ve said from the very beginning, we need to spend less than we spent this year. Is that hard to do?

Speaker 8 (07:14):

So how do you know when you spend more on other things?

Kevin McCarthy (07:17):

Just like every other household. Let me explain it to you, okay? We need to spend less, but what have we spent when the Democrats have been in power? They’ve increased spending especially on discretionary by more than 20%. We are spending more than at any other time than if you want to look at from a point of GDP, we are now more than 24% of GDP spending when on a 50-year average, we’re at 21%. So how do you do it? We’re going to do it like every single household does it. They’re going to make a decision on what’s the most important, but they’re not going to be able to spend so much more. So we’re going to make a decision just as Republicans and Democrats together, we’re going to find a baseline that we agree to, that will be less than what we spent this year. And appropriators are going to sit together and prioritize what’s right.

Do you think it’s right that we would spend and leave money, billions of dollars out there for COVID that we appropriated for two years and they never spent the pandemic’s over? What about bringing that money back? What about helping people get back into the workforce so they pay into social security and Medicare? I don’t think it’s right to take from a hardworking taxpayer and go borrow from China to pay an able body person with no dependence to sit on a couch. I think it’s more productive. Yes.

Speaker 9 (08:30):

Thank you. Beyond the top line numbers, have you been able to negotiate the things like [inaudible 00:08:36] and get that off-

Kevin McCarthy (08:38):

We’ve had a lot of discussions, but nothing’s agreed to, okay? So we’ve had good discussions on a lot of items. Yes.

Speaker 10 (08:44):

Thank you. You said progress has been made, on what items has progress been made? Is dealing with-

Kevin McCarthy (08:49):

Did I say progress or productive?

Speaker 10 (08:50):

I’m sorry.

Kevin McCarthy (08:52):

Words matter.

Speaker 10 (08:53):

Productive, how was it productive?

Kevin McCarthy (08:55):

I think the productive part was who was in the room, narrowing where we’re talking. We’re not talking over each other, we’re not saying, “Oh, let’s bring something new into discussion. Let’s not talk about raising taxes, that’s been off for a long time.” We literally talked about where we are having disagreements and ideas. So to me, that’s productive. Not progress, but productive. Yes, sir. [inaudible 00:09:16]. Yes.

Speaker 11 (09:19):

Mr. Speaker, the chairman referenced some pressing challenges. What is still the most pressing challenge where the two sides are far apart? And is the framework starting to come into focus at all here?

Kevin McCarthy (09:30):

Look, I see where the framework can be, you’ve just got to have people who are willing to get to that point. Yes.

Speaker 12 (09:36):

Mr. Speaker, you mentioned a sense of lack of urgency. You say-

Kevin McCarthy (09:40):

That was Patrick’s words.

Speaker 12 (09:50):

Sorry. Also, [inaudible 00:09:50]. Does this mean at some point, you’re going to look at Mr. McClintock’s debt prioritization bill?

Kevin McCarthy (09:51):

No. No. It’s just like the same question you had with me, would I ever win a speaker? I don’t give up. I’m not going to give up on the American people, we’re going to get this done. I don’t think it’s productive. Look, too often in life, you want to take the easy way out. What would it do if you just raised the debt ceiling and did nothing else? You would make the problem even worse going forward. I wasn’t elected to do that. And the other part is if you kicked it for a short time period, how would that be productive? I think we’ve got to get on with our lives, we’ve got to get this economy stronger, we’ve got to curve inflation, we’ve got to be less dependent upon China and that means changing the behavior here. And I’m willing to fight to make that happen. Yes.

Speaker 13 (10:33):

You said your staff and Patrick McHenry are going to be here all night working on this. If you guys are really as far apart as you say you are with the White House where nothing is agreed to, what’s the point of staff and more talks at this point if you and the president are that far apart?

Kevin McCarthy (10:46):

Look, I don’t think we would agree to talks if we thought it wasn’t productive and that we couldn’t come to an agreement. I actually believe at the end of the day we can come to an agreement. So that’s why we’re together. Why it was productive today and not giving progress, we only talked about where our differences were. We talked about items that… Ideas, to find that. So we’re asking the staff to get back and run through those ideas to see if we could come to an agreement. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 14 (11:19):

Do you know when you’ll be meeting with President Biden next?

Kevin McCarthy (11:22):

Well I would assume I’d meet with President Biden every day until we get this done. This is too important.

Speaker 14 (11:26):

Do you expect to meet with him tomorrow?

Kevin McCarthy (11:28):

Look, if we don’t meet, I’m sure we’re going to talk on the phone, but we’re going to have the staff get together and then we were going to get back. It was not set that we had to see one another or at least we’re going to talk, but nothing’s set there. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 15 (11:38):

Mr. Speaker. [inaudible 00:11:40]. And following up on Nicole’s question, to clarify what you’re saying, we hear you saying no clean debt ceiling increase. Does that also mean if there were a short term, which of course you don’t want right now, but if there were, that also would not be clean? No clean-

Kevin McCarthy (11:54):

Okay, listen, in the Senate, a clean debt ceiling couldn’t pass. In the house, it can’t pass. So why should we waste time on something that’s not going to pass instead of finding something that is a solution to the problem? We are too close to give up. I think America’s too great to think on small ideas like that. I want to solve the problem, okay? Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 16 (12:15):

Did the White House negotiators and president agree on your focus on spending less? Is that part of the directive for the talks with-

Kevin McCarthy (12:23):

Well let me be very clear, from the first day I sat with the president, there’s two criteria I told him. We’re not going to raise taxes because we bring in more money than we ever have and we’re not going to pass a clean debt ceiling, and we’ve got to spend less than we spent this year. And so everything else is open for negotiations, but at the end of the day, it has to fit in that place. Yes.

Speaker 17 (12:45):

In terms of timeline, do you think it’s realistic that a deal would be in hand this week and do you see members staying either over the weekend or coming back during the recess next week-

Kevin McCarthy (12:53):

Members are elected to do the job and I think when we get this done, they’ll vote for it. Yes, ma’am. [inaudible 00:13:00]. Look, you all do a great job. You all want me to negotiate with you. You’re not the person to negotiate, it’s the president. And the way when I say nothing’s agreed to, we don’t agree to anything until we agree to everything. We’ve had our discussions about different items.

Speaker 18 (13:19):

Mr. Chairman, you said that the White House staff was professional.

Kevin McCarthy (13:23):

Oh, yeah.

Speaker 18 (13:24):

But at the same time-

Kevin McCarthy (13:25):

Very smart.

Speaker 18 (13:25):

Mr. Chairman McHenry, you said that there’s a lack of seriousness. How do you bridge that gap?

Kevin McCarthy (13:34):

No, I think you’re misinterpreting.

Patrick McHenry (13:35):

No, no, I didn’t say that. I did not say-

Speaker 18 (13:37):

I’m sorry.

Patrick McHenry (13:37):

Lack of seriousness.

Speaker 18 (13:38):

I’m sorry.

Patrick McHenry (13:38):

No, absolutely not. The president sent a credible team.

Speaker 18 (13:42):

I’m sorry, I misheard.

Patrick McHenry (13:43):

Two-thirds Shalanda Young personally, right? He sent warriors up here on behalf of his administration. That’s who he sent up. That’s who we’re negotiating with. They’re a highly credible team, they’re a tough negotiating team, these are tough discussions that we’re having. But they’re honest. We’re honest with each other.

Speaker 18 (14:03):


Patrick McHenry (14:04):

So what I talked about was a lack of urgency.

Speaker 18 (14:07):

Sorry, I misheard.

Patrick McHenry (14:08):

Urgency. And I’ve been consistent about my position here on the debt ceiling. I don’t want brinkmanship, it is not in America’s interest. It is not in America’s interest for brinkmanship. And what I wanted to hear from the president and his team was that we’re going to get it done quickly and we’re interested in closing this thing out. We’ve been circling on the same number of things we’ve been circling on since I came out on Wednesday.

Speaker 18 (14:33):

My apologies, I misheard.

Kevin McCarthy (14:35):

All right.

Speaker 19 (14:35):

But the new ideas outside of the House Republican Bill, can you talk about the new ideas that you’re-

Kevin McCarthy (14:44):

No. Look, when I refer to new ideas, we have talked the whole time, how can we spend less than we spent this year? So ideas are where are areas that you could find savings? And we would bring up an area that we wanted to have savings in and they say, “Well that’s a problem.” “Okay, but we’ve got to have savings, so let’s look at another area.” Those are the things I’m talking about, ideas of how to handle it. Yes, ma’am.

Speaker 20 (15:03):

Do you get a sense that the White House is seriously considering using the 14th amendment? And did you talk-

Kevin McCarthy (15:07):

No, I don’t think anybody with a legal mind would think the 14th Amendment would even work and nobody does before.

Speaker 21 (15:12):

Will you be giving us an update tomorrow morning after the staff meet tonight to give us an update on where things are?

Kevin McCarthy (15:17):

I will have to because you people just stay right here the entire time. I can’t walk… I’m afraid some of you are going to get hurt just walking. And so I mean I try, and you tell me if I’m not, I try to be as open and as upfront of what’s going on. I try to take as many questions as I can from all of you. You might get tired. And you’re raising your hand and all excited, so go ahead.

Speaker 22 (15:36):

Mr. Speaker McCarthy, has immigration been part of these negotiations? And if so, in what context?

Kevin McCarthy (15:41):

No, look, I’d like to solve, it’s another problem that the White House has ignored that the Republicans have a solution for. And I’ve always said, “Mr. President, if we could find that we could do something on the border, even though it wouldn’t look like it would score as savings, I know I would count it as savings because I believe it would save Americans’ lives with fentanyl. It would save America to being stronger that we had border security.” But I don’t believe at the end of the day that that’s getting much… I keep asking this side, no one on here wants to ask the question? Raise the hand. Yes.

Speaker 23 (16:13):

Is a spending freeze, is that enough to be a cut with inflation in your minds, because they’ve offered a spending-

Kevin McCarthy (16:20):

Okay. Okay.

Speaker 23 (16:21):

I just want to make sure you understand.

Kevin McCarthy (16:22):

I’m not going to big, but a freeze is not less. A freeze is spinning the same amount. Oh, my, you should run for office with the Democrats. My God. You’re getting the liberal media concept. Yes.

Speaker 24 (16:39):

Republicans have not been able to agree to 302(b) numbers.

Kevin McCarthy (16:43):

What do you mean? We passed the bill. [inaudible 00:16:46]. Oh, okay. Well okay, let’s talk about a [inaudible 00:16:49]. So which one?

Speaker 24 (16:50):

So is it going to be more difficult to come… Are you relying on this negotiation with President Biden to come to that and how are you going to rally Republicans around that final number that needs democratic support?

Kevin McCarthy (17:01):

Very easy, okay? So when you have the debt ceiling, you’re going to agree to a top line number, 302(a). That will give the number so then they can work as the jobs they are to decide what takes priority and where spending will come out. The difficulty part is that we don’t have that done yet and we’re in the middle of a debt ceiling discussion. But we know the timeline’s June 1st. So we know this is all going to happen here pretty soon and the appropriators will have that number to be able to work towards it. The productivity, we’ve only passed a couple so far out because I think some of them, it would probably be smart to hold until the debt ceiling’s done shortly.

Speaker 25 (17:42):

Could I ask specifically how important permitting reform is to this conversation?

Kevin McCarthy (17:46):

Well I think permitting reform is this, it’s the red tape that stops things from being built. And we actually have had some productive conversations. Garrett Graves is one of the policy wonks on this and he’s had some good discussion. I don’t believe, at the end of the day, if we are able to get some permitting reform, I believe that will help the economy and grow the economy, but I don’t think it’ll solve all the permitting reform. So what I’ve promised to the president, I even said today is what we don’t get done I promise we’ll continue those conversations and keep going because I want to be able to build things in America.

Speaker 26 (18:16):

But you anticipate that something will be in the bill.

Kevin McCarthy (18:18):

I hope to be and I believe it can be.

Speaker 25 (18:21):

And just to clarify, when you’re saying you promise to do something else, you’re talking about transmission deployment for renewable energy?

Kevin McCarthy (18:27):

Look, I don’t want to… All I said is we will continue to work on the parts that we can’t come to agreement on. I think having Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and I want to wish her a happy birthday today, and Bruce Westerman. And this is where I said it was a productive conversation. In this conversation, the president and I both agreed that you can’t do permitting reform for one form of energy, it has to be for all the above, right? Lots of times people come out and say, “Oh, I just wanted to do it maybe for oil production or just for renewables.” No, it would help everybody. And my position is I believe we need all forms of energy. If you look at where America’s growing, we need to double the size of our grid. So we need everything. And I think where permitting reform would really go is it’s cutting the red tape, letting us build things again and it just won’t be energy, it’ll be others. All right. Last question. Yes.

Speaker 27 (19:18):

We’ve been circling on the same issues for a week, we want get it done. What is going to force the end game here?

Kevin McCarthy (19:25):

I think June 1st. I think June… Look, one thing I found about government is they only worked at it, we didn’t want to be here, as I said before. And you say circling, we made the circle smaller, smaller, smaller. So we’re getting closer. Don’t give up on us. I don’t give up on you, all right. Thank you all very much. Have a good night.

Speaker 29 (19:41):

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. [inaudible 00:19:44].

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