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The leadership of President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will be put to the test Tuesday, with both men under intense pressure not to back down from the debt-limit standoff that threatens a U.S. default on financial obligations as early as June 1.

At stake is an “economic calamity” in the U.S. if they don’t strike a deal in time, said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, warning of a stock market nosedive and jarringly higher interest rates for consumer loans for homes and cars.

“It’s widely agreed that financial and economic chaos will ensue,” Ms. Yellen said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”

The Biden-McCarthy showdown centers on the president’s demand for a “clean” bill that increases the $31.4 trillion debt limit with no strings attached and Republicans’ demands to rein in government spending to slow the ballooning debt.

“They’re trying to hold the debt hostage to us to agree to some draconian cuts, magnificently difficult and damaging cuts,” Mr. Biden said Friday.

Mr. McCarthy said on Twitter: “House and Senate Republicans agree: raising the debt limit without getting spending under control would be irresponsible.”

Ahead of the White House meeting, Mr. Biden’s team has been floating the idea of a short-term debt limit hike to give the two sides more time to negotiate a broader deal.

“I’m sure one of the things on the table we will have to work through is how long. I’m not going to take anything off the table,” said Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young. “I would love to be in that part of the conversation. Because we’re at least in the positive — default is off the table.”

A senior GOP leadership aide told The Washington Times the prospect of a short-term deal could only be accepted if Mr. Biden did something to signal he was serious about entering negotiations on cutting spending. 

“We’ve been asking the White House to negotiate for months,” said the aide. “There’s a feeling the president isn’t taking this seriously and is hoping the GOP will blink in the face of pressure.” 

The GOP is worried that if they agree to a short-term hike, Mr. Biden will take the move as a sign of weakness and refuse to negotiate, setting up another fiscal crisis. Democrats, for their part, say there might not be enough time to hold a proper negotiation. 

“Negotiating a giant budget cut like Republicans want, that would be really hard get done in a few weeks even if we wanted to do it,” said Rep. Glenn Ivey, Maryland Democrat. “We know that because it took House Republicans three months to draft their proposal. A clean debt ceiling bill is the only way.”

The sit-down Tuesday at the White House also will include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both New York Democrats.

Mr. McConnell has pledged full support from Mr. McCarthy’s firm stance on tying a debt limit increase to spending cuts.

Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has added his name to a GOP letter addressed to Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer. The letter warns that Senate Republicans are “united behind the House Republican Conference in support of spending cuts and structural budget reform as a starting point for negotiations on the debt ceiling.”

It was signed by 43 GOP senators, and two other Republicans have indicated they will vote with the party to block any measure that raises the borrowing limit without spending cuts and other fiscal reforms.

Ms. Yellen recently moved up the deadline to June 1 for Congress to raise the statutory limit on how much the federal government can borrow to meet expenses. The new deadline prompted Mr. Biden to schedule the meeting for Tuesday.

There is already evidence that investors’ confidence in public debt is shrinking. 

On Thursday, the U.S. Treasury sold $50 billion of four-week securities at a record interest rate of 5.84%. That’s the highest interest rate seen on sales of U.S. debt since 2000. 

The $50 billion bonds are set to mature on June 6 — five days after a potential default. For comparison, last week the Treasury sold bonds set to mature on May 30 at a rate of 3.83%. 

“We are in a game of chicken and it may very well blow up the economy,” said Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat. 

House Republicans already offered up their opening bid in the debt-limit negotiations. They recently passed legislation that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion until May 2024 in exchange for $4.8 trillion in spending cuts.

Apart from raising the debt limit, the Republican bill would cut federal spending by $130 billion for the upcoming fiscal year and limit budget growth to 1% annually over the next decade. It also rescinds at least $90.5 billion in unspent pandemic relief, imposes new work requirements on welfare, cancels Mr. Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, and scraps $200 billion in green-energy tax credits.

Democrats say the GOP’s bill is a non-starter. During Tuesday’s meeting, Mr. Biden is expected to pitch Mr. McCarthy on “initiating a separate process” to negotiate spending levels ahead of the government funding deadline at the end of September. 

Sen. Tim Kaine, an administration ally, said that even without the debt limit, Republicans would be in a good position to negotiate fiscal cuts by the very nature of their control of the House.

“I think the right answer is still to raise the debt ceiling and then have a really tough budget negotiation,” said Mr. Kaine, Virginia Democrat.

That position is unacceptable to Republicans. They say all of their leverage would be diminished once the debt ceiling was raised. They note that under previous presidents spending overhauls were tied to the debt limit. 

“In the eleven times that we’ve increased the debt limit since 1985 it’s been tied to fiscal reforms,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith, Missouri Republican. “It’s reckless not to negotiate to bring fiscal sanity back to Washington, D.C.” 

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