Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) offered to make President Biden a “soft food” lunch if he agrees to meet on the debt limit.
“He is making the decision that he wants to put the economy in jeopardy. I don’t know what more I can do and how easy — I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food if that’s what he wants. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet,” McCarthy said at a press conference on Thursday, appearing to take a dig at the 80-year-old president’s age.
Biden has snubbed McCarthy’s efforts to bring him to the negotiating table on spending cuts and policy concessions as a condition of Republicans agreeing to raise the debt ceiling. Biden has called for a “clean” debt limit increase without concessions.
Asked about McCarthy’s comment on Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that “the president is able to pick out his own Starbucks.”
“What we really need from Speaker McCarthy and from House Republicans is to see their budget. Where’s the budget? They come up with excuses,” Jean-Pierre said. She added that McCarthy will have to answer to American people “if he’s serious or not.”
“We are,” Jean-Pierre said.
House Republicans defended McCarthy’s comment.
“Maybe he eats soft ice cream,” said Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), referencing the president’s favorite treat.
“President Biden is a big boy. I’m sure that he understands for the good of the country, it would be best for humans to view speaker McCarthy’s comments as an attempt at levity rather than as an excuse to not negotiate over the debt ceiling,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.)
On Tuesday, McCarthy sent Biden a letter asking for the White House to schedule a meeting at the debt limit by the end of the week. Biden responded by telling House Republicans to release their budget blueprint before agreeing to a meeting and called for a budget by the end of the week — a condition House Republicans will not meet.
Congress is expected to have to act to raise the debt ceiling by sometime this summer.
In the letter, McCarthy called cutting nondefense discretionary spending, reclaiming unspent COVID-19 relief funding, strengthening work requirements for social safety-net programs and creating policies to lower energy costs and secure the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the flow of illegal drugs.
McCarthy this week has criticized Biden for not re-engaging on the issue since they had a Feb. 1 meeting despite signaling at the time they would.
“I’m sorry, he needs to change his behavior, go back to the person he said he was, that you need to sit down,” McCarthy said. “Our government is designed to have compromise. We don’t have a pre-conceived idea of where it has to go.”
Updated: 4:40 p.m.