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In February, Democratic President Joe Biden met with Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy to discuss the U.S. debt ceiling. McCarthy called it a “first good meeting,” while the White House said it was a “frank and straightforward dialogue,” according to Politico. 

The debt ceiling is the limit set by Congress on how much the U.S. government can borrow. Since 1960, Congress has raised it 78 times — 49 times under GOP presidents. Failing to raise the ceiling could place the government in default of its debt payments.

On March 28, McCarthy called on Biden to arrange another meeting. House Republicans say they are poised to pass legislation to impose a debt ceiling limit unless Biden agrees to spending cuts and policy changes. 

Biden has said he will not negotiate conditions for raising the debt ceiling, but is willing to discuss spending plans with Republicans once GOP party leaders release a budget proposal.

This Fact Brief is responsive to conversations such as this one.


Politico Biden and McCarthy hold ‘first good’ meeting on debt ceiling, but ‘no agreements, no promises’

Council on Foreign Relations What Happens When the U.S. Hits Its Debt Ceiling?

Roll Call House will move debt limit bill if Biden won’t negotiate

Roll Call McCarthy to Biden on debt limit: ‘You are on the clock’

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Erin Gretzinger / Wisconsin WatchReporting Intern

Erin Gretzinger joined Wisconsin Watch as a reporting intern in May 2022. She is a journalism and French major at UW-Madison and will graduate in spring 2023. Erin previously worked for the Wisconsin State Journal as a reporting intern and served as the 2021-22 editor-in-chief at The Badger Herald. She is a recipient of the Jon Wolman Scholarship, the Sigrid Schultz Scholarship and the Joseph Sicherman Award Fund for her academic and reporting work.