WASHINGTON – House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke by phone with President Joe Biden Sunday night ahead of debt limit negotiations last Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the discussion. not previously reported.
McCarthy entered the conversation in hopes of improving the prospects for a deal, sources told NBC News. Biden also spoke by phone over the weekend with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., according to one of the sources.
A McCarthy spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the call. The White House declined to comment.
The conversation came after more than three months without any meaningful negotiations between the two men about the looming deadline. Biden and McCarthy had little prior relationship, and the Speaker had become publicly frustrated with the president’s unwillingness to meet and negotiate the debt ceiling.
Biden and congressional leaders left Tuesday’s meeting in the Oval Office without having resolved the looming default crisis, but planned to meet again on Friday. That follow-up meeting has now been postponed until next week, three sources told NBC News.
“That is why three months ago I came to the president. Can we find a way? I know we’re both going to have to give and take,» McCarthy told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting. “So let’s sit down together, find places we can agree on, and do this. Because they ignored us, we had to go it alone and we passed a bill to do it.”
One source described the mood in the room during the meeting as «tense and serious,» adding that it did little to break the deadlock on the issue in Washington.
But ongoing staff-level talks that began in the days before the meeting have given some lawmakers hope of a deal.
“It takes a certain number of these performance meetings before you get to productive meetings,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, RS.D., a close McCarthy ally, told reporters Thursday. «So it’s actually helpful to eliminate performative meetings.»
«Instructing staff to really sit down and negotiate was also helpful and not a foregone conclusion,» he said.