Biden on debt ceiling talks: ‘I’m a congenital optimist’

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President Biden said on Sunday he believes he will be able to come to a debt ceiling agreement with GOP lawmakers as the deadline to prevent a default looms.

“It never is good to characterize a negotiation in the middle of a negotiation,” he told reporters on a bike ride. “I remain optimistic because I’m a congenital optimist. But I really think there’s a desire on their part as well as ours to reach agreement. I think we’ll be able to do it.”

Biden also said he is waiting for a Republican proposal on tougher work requirements for government aid programs that has been floated.

“I voted for tougher aid programs that’s in the law now, but for Medicaid, it’s a different story. And so I’m waiting to hear what their exact proposal is,” he said.

The White House early Monday noted that the “work requirements on cash assistance that the President voted for in the 1990s are still the law today.”

“As the President said, Medicaid is a different story, and the President has been clear that he will not accept proposals that take away people’s health coverage,” a spokesperson added in a statement to The Hill. “The President has also been clear that he will not accept policies that push Americans into poverty. He will evaluate whatever proposals Republicans bring to the table based on those principles.”

Biden and congressional leaders met last week to discuss the debt ceiling, but no compromise has been announced. Biden floated the idea last week of using the 14th Amendment as a unilateral way to work around the debt ceiling, while Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said after the meeting that no “new movement” had been made.

Biden and congressional leaders are set to meet again Tuesday after staffers met to discuss possible solutions. Administration officials sounded optimistic over the weekend about the upcoming talks.

“The staff is very engaged. I would characterize the engagement as serious, as constructive,” National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday that “conversations are constructive between all of the parties.”

Updated at 7:43 a.m.

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