Biden: We're going to have a discussion about U.S. debt with House leader

WASHINGTON, Jan 20 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden on Friday pledged to "have a discussion" with House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy on U.S. debt amid a looming debate about raising the debt ceiling.

At an event with city mayors, Biden said a U.S. debt default would be a calamity unlike anything ever seen in the United States financially.

"The debt we're paying on, and we're gonna have a little discussion about that with the new majority leader of the House, has accumulated over 200 years," Biden said, not citing McCarthy by name.

He did not provide details on when he might talk to McCarthy, the newly named Republican Speaker who wants to link a vote to raise the debt ceiling to government spending cuts.

McCarthy said in a tweet addressed to Biden that he "accepted your invitation to sit down and discuss a responsible debt ceiling increase to address irresponsible government spending."

White House spokeperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that Biden looked forward to meeting with McCarthy to "discuss a range of issues" as part of a number of meetings he is holding with new congressional leaders.

"Like the President has said many times, raising the debt ceiling is not a negotiation; it is an obligation of this country and its leaders to avoid economic chaos," she said.

Biden is hosting Democratic congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday. A White House official said no date had been set for a McCarthy visit.

The White House has said repeatedly it will not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling and has used some Republican proposals for spending cuts to draw a contrast with Democratic priorities.

"As for the broad economic debate in our country, the Speaker and his allies have said that they have a fiscal plan to cut Social Security, cut Medicare, cut other vital programs, and impose a 30 percent national sales tax," Jean-Pierre said, referring to U.S. social safety net programs. "We are going to have a clear debate on two different visions for the country – one that cuts Social Security, and one that protects it – and the President is happy to discuss that with the Speaker."

Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Steve Holland and Eric Beech; Editing by Franklin Paul and Leslie Adler

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters. He has covered the presidencies of Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden and the presidential campaigns of Biden, Trump, Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. He served as president of the White House Correspondents’ Association in 2016-2017, leading the press corps in advocating for press freedom in the early days of the Trump administration. His and the WHCA's work was recognized with Deutsche Welle's "Freedom of Speech Award." Jeff has asked pointed questions of domestic and foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un. He is a winner of the WHCA's “Excellence in Presidential News Coverage Under Deadline Pressure" award and co-winner of the Association for Business Journalists' "Breaking News" award. Jeff began his career in Frankfurt, Germany as a business reporter before being posted to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. Jeff appears regularly on television and radio and teaches political journalism at Georgetown University. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and a former Fulbright scholar.