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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

White House dismisses McCarthy’s apparent dig at Biden’s age

From left to right: U.S. President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) talk as they depart the U.S. Capitol following the Friends of Ireland Luncheon on Saint Patrick's Day March 17, 2023, in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)  (Drew Angerer)
By Amy B Wang New York Times

The White House on Thursday shut down an apparent attack on President Biden’s age by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who earlier in the day claimed Republicans had been trying to arrange a meeting with Biden to continue negotiations on the debt ceiling.

“I would bring lunch to the White House. I would make it soft food, if that’s what he wants,” McCarthy said at a GOP news conference, eliciting laughter from House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (La.) and other Republicans nearby. “It doesn’t matter. Whatever it takes to meet.”

Asked Thursday about the comment, interpreted as a jab at Biden’s age of 80, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said curtly that “the president is able to pick out his own Starbucks, so I’ll say that.”

She then quickly pivoted to how Republicans had still not presented a budget, something Biden and Democratic lawmakers have said would be necessary before an Oval Office meeting could occur. The White House issued a budget plan earlier this month; Republicans have been unable to coalesce around a budget.

“What we really need from Speaker McCarthy and House Republicans is to see their budget,” Jean-Pierre said. “Where’s the budget? They come up with excuses.”

She added: “We want to see what they value. We want to see exactly what it is that they want to cut. So let’s have that budget discussion. What does the speaker want to discuss? What are the specific cuts? What taxes does he want to raise? It’s been three weeks. We’ve had our budget out.”

House Republicans are threatening a default on the nation’s debt that could hurt the economy unless the White House agrees to their spending-cut demands. They raised the debt limit three times when Republican Donald Trump was president but have demanded negotiations with the Democratic president.