Irish Throwdown: Saint Patrick’s Day Lunch Sets Stage for Biden, McCarthy Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Call it Irish luck: President Joe Biden, a Democrat, hinted at agreeing to negotiate with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over the debt ceiling during remarks at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon, a shift from Biden’s initial stance of wanting a pass. Clean debt ceiling increase without negotiations.

The two Irish-American leaders met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and congressional leaders at the Capitol on Friday for a private lunch during which they did not mention the debt ceiling row specifically but appeared to allude to the looming battle to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. .

McCarthy, who spoke first, put pressure on Biden by harking back to the days of the first Irish luncheon in the 1980s, which featured Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill.

“Since almost every speaker, every president and every prime minister has set aside topical issues to come together to toast the great St. Patrick,” McCarthy said.

The spokesman described the relationship of the late politicians as “special”.

Follow McCarthy:

Each of us will respect the relationship these two have, and talk about the moments and times when they rose to the occasion. It was easy to fight political battles, but on some of the toughest issues—even when it came to Social Security—they used their relationship of being Irish to find a way to put America first.

At that moment and at that time when they had financial problems, they found a way to get together. They were always breaking bread, sharing some Guinness, fighting hard for their personal beliefs, and at the end of the day America was stronger for it, and it’s unique that we’re here again after 40 years.

Last week, Biden introduced a budget proposal that includes tax hikes and spending increases, a dead-on-arrival opening offer that House Republicans have already rejected.

McCarthy himself said he wouldn’t support tax increases and needed to see discretionary spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt limit during a recent interview with Breitbart News’ Matthew Boyle.

McCarthy vowed: “We will not raise taxes and we will not pass a clean debt ceiling.”

On Friday, the spokesperson spoke directly to Biden as he wrapped up his luncheon remarks, saying he wanted the couple to strive to be like Reagan and O’Neill in terms of reaching an agreement that puts America first.

“Our positions may change but our goals can be the same, as we put this country first,” McCarthy said before reciting an Irish blessing he said was his late father’s “favorite”.

Others present at the event included well-known Massachusetts Representative Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) and former Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Massachusetts), who is now the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland. Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (R-Calif.) was also in attendance, and Grammy-nominated Celtic band Cherish the Ladies performed for the audience.

US President Joe Biden, center left, and US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, right, during the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon with Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US.  , Friday, March 17, 2023. The Irish prime minister is in Washington today to meet with lawmakers, a bipartisan tradition for St. Patrick's Day.  Photographer: Yuri Gribas/Abaca/Bloomberg

(Yuri Grippas/Abaca/Bloomberg)

(Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden and McCarthy seemed to be in largely good spirits, shrugging off the usual political tensions to celebrate the holiday.

Biden quoted Irish poet Seamus Heaney and recalled his visit to the Emerald Isle.

“I am, like all of you, proud of my Irish ancestry and for as long as I can remember it has been a part of my soul, and how I grew up,” Biden said.

The President said, “I agree with the speaker. There is no reason why we cannot find common ground. There is no reason why we cannot hope to reverse this trend of extremism that is being pushed by both sides.”

Biden has said that the “partnership” between him and McCarthy can be defined by their shared background.

“That’s the power of friendship. That’s the power of our partnership if we work on it, and simply put, I think it’s the Irish of them, and I think it’s the Irish of that,” Biden said. “So, I hope we can turn this breakfast into a more everyday affair. … There are so many possibilities we have.”

Write to Ashley Oliver at Follow her on Twitter at @employee.

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