U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy promised Sunday the United States would not default on its national debts as the country approaches its $31.4 trillion spending limit in June but said the government cannot continue to annually spend more than it collects in taxes.
McCarthy, leader of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” show that he will meet with Democratic President Joe Biden on Wednesday, the first discussions in what could be protracted debt ceiling talks over several months.
The U.S. must raise its debt ceiling before it runs out of money to pay bills it has already incurred. Biden and Democrats want a “clean” approval to raise the debt ceiling not tied to future spending, while Republicans have called for limits on new spending to curb yearly deficits, chronic overspending that often totals more than $1 trillion annually.
“We're not going to default,” McCarthy said.
The U.S. has never defaulted on its debts, such as on Treasury notes sold to China, Japan and individual Americans, but its credit rating was downgraded in 2011 when Democratic President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans sparred at length over the country’s spending before eventually reaching a 10-year agreement.
Now, McCarthy said, the country’s debt totals 120% of its national economic output, with the debt significantly added to in recent years for two main reasons, the national tax cuts Republicans approved under former President Donald Trump and unfunded coronavirus aid relief approved under both Trump and Biden.
“We haven't been in this place to debt since World War II,” McCarthy said. “So, we can't continue down this path. And I don't think there's anyone in America who doesn't agree that there's some wasteful Washington spending that we can eliminate.”
“So, I want to sit down together, work out an agreement that we can move forward, to put us on a path to balance — at the same time, not put any — any of our debt in jeopardy at the same time,” he said. “We shouldn't just print more money; we should balance our budget. So, I want to look at every single department. Where can we become more efficient, more effective, and more accountable?”
McCarthy, like Biden, ruled out cuts to two of the most popular government programs, pensions and health care for older Americans, respectively known as Social Security and Medicare.
But he added, “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.”
He compared government spending to an American family’s budget, saying, “Every family does this. What is - what has happened with the debt limit is you reached your credit card limit. Should we just continue to raise the limit? Or should we look at what we're spending?”